Sexual Assault Trends in Emergency Departments

The number of reported sexual assault cases increased by 65% between 2006 and 2019, with more survivors seeking medical care than ever before.

graphs depicting emergency department visits and admissions for adults aged 18 to 65 years with any diagnosis of sexual assault vs all other diagnoses, 2006-2019

Read Time: 2 minutes


Compared to survivors of other violent crimes, people who experience sexual assault are less likely to seek medical care. Those who do seek care often go to emergency departments (EDs) because of the critical nature of their injuries.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the number of reported sexual assault cases increased by 65% between 2006 and 2019. In addition to their physical injuries, sexual assault survivors are at an increased risk for suicidal ideation, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and depression. While it has been estimated that every 68 seconds a sexual assault occurs, only 21% of survivors seek medical care.

Researcher Emily Vogt and colleagues examined current trends in sexual assault care in emergency departments. The researchers used data from the Nationwide Emergency Department Sample and the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program to quantify the use of EDs by adult survivors and identify disparities in treatment for sexual assault .

Overall, they found that ED visits increased from 3,607 visits in 2006 to 55,296 visits in 2019, as seen in Graph A. This increase mirrors a similar rise in reporting of sexual assault to law enforcement and suggests outside factors, such as social justice movements, like #MeToo, may have empowered these survivors to seek emergency services.

Interestingly, as ED visits rose, the admissions rates for sexual assault dropped to 4.3% in 2019, as seen in Graph B. The reasons for decreased admission rates remains unclear, but the researchers suggest this decline may be caused by differences in evaluation patterns, severity of assault, or other health system and patient factors.

With the increase in sexual assault survivors receiving help, the researchers suggest that expanding follow-up services for survivors is imperative.

Databyte via Emily Vogt, Charley Jiang, Quinton Jenkins, et al. Trends in US Emergency Department Use After Sexual Assault, 2006-2019, Jama Network Open 2022.