One in five women will be raped during the course of their lifetime. This is a statistic I have seen over and over since I started this blog and began learning more about rape. I’ve had almost two years to really let that statistic sink in. In order to wrap my head around what that number actually represented, I started trying to picture it. I started by looking at the groups around me. What would one in five women look like in my world?
There are 21 teachers working in my school. All of them are women. At my school it is likely that four of us have been raped. I count as one. Who are the other three? Are there more? Are we all silent?
I did a quick headcount at church today. We’re a small church, and very close-knit. We’ve known each other forever and really feel like a family. There were about 50 women sitting in the congregation. It is likely that at my church 10 of us have been raped. I know that no one has publicly come out as a rape survivor. Even if that statistic is a high estimate, it is almost certain that I am not the only one.
At Thanksgiving this year, my wonderful extended family will gather. There will be about 15 adult women there. In my own family, it is likely that there are two other rape survivors.
I got stuck in traffic the other day. On a five lane expressway. It was bumper-to-bumper…cars as far as the eyes could see. Five lanes. If there was one woman in each car, the entire fast lane would represent rape victims. Think about that the next time you get stuck in a traffic jam. Picture that one whole lane of cars is full of rape survivors. The numbers start to get staggering when you think of it this way.
Then I started wondering what that looked like worldwide. I found 2008 world population figures that told me there were 3,386,509,865 females in the world. If one in five of those females get raped in their lifetime, that is 677,301,973 rape survivors on the planet.
677 million rape survivors.
Now that’s a number I can’t picture in my head. Here’s what I do know about that number. It is more than double the total population of the United States. It is more than the total population of North America. It is more than all of the people killed in all of the wars in the 20th century.
Again, I don’t know how accurate that statistic is. Rape is a highly underreported crime, so maybe the statistic should be higher. There are a small percentage of false reports, so maybe the statistic is too high. Some countries don’t recognize such things as marital rape, and that may skew statistics. There are varying definitions of rape, further obscuring the numbers. But the one in five statistic comes up time and time again.
What I do know, is that now I cannot walk into a group of people without doing a quick count and picturing one in five of the women there. And it breaks my heart. Try it. The next time you are at the grocery store. The next time you go to work. The next time you’re in a stadium full of people.
Try to imagine the one in five. And hold that picture in your head.