Being a victim of a crime comes with a multitude of costs — emotional, physical and financial. While many of the costs of victimization are impossible to calculate, such as the pain and suffering of the victim and their loved ones, other costs can be estimated.
Measuring the cost of violent crime victimization is difficult, and using that data to make comparisons across time and place can be even trickier. A significant amount of research has attempted to answer the question: how much does it cost to be a victim? Arthur Lurigio at Loyola University of Chicago notes that since the 1980s, the cost of crime victimization has been studied in three main ways: (1) drawing upon several data sources and applying a “basic costs calculus;” (2) surveying people on their willingness to pay for crime reduction programs; and (3) asking people to estimate “the effects of crime on housing prices and other community amenities” (Lurigio, 2014). Whatever method you use, it is apparent that the cost of crime victimization in the United States is vast. As of 1996, the National Institute of Justice estimated crime victimization costs the country $450 billion a year.
Although all crimes incur both tangible and intangible costs, several studies have found that rape and sexual violence are the costliest crimes. The Minnesota Department of health found that the annual cost per year to victims of rape, not including child sexual abuse, is $127 billion. The average cost of being a victim of rape is $110,000, while being a victim of robbery costs on average $16,000 and being a victim of drunk driving typically costs $36,000.
The economic costs of rape stem from several different considerations ranging from loss of income to increased medical costs.
Loss of Income
There are several ways in which being a victim of rape can result in loss of income. Every year, it is estimated that victims of intimate partner rape lose 1.1 million days of paid and unpaid household activity (Centers for Disease Control). While 14% of survivors lost several days of work as a result of the crime, half of sexual violence victims either quit or leave their jobs within the year following their assault (Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault). Additionally, survivors who experienced sexual assault in adolescence have an estimated lifetime income loss of $241,600 (National Alliance to End Sexual Violence). The New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault also notes that this reduction of income for survivors is partially attributable to reduced education. Compared to women who report not having survived sexual abuse, survivors have a 3 times greater chance of not completing high school.
Increased Cost of Healthcare
A study done by the National Institutes of Health estimates that the lifetime medical cost per victim of rape for women is $48,180 and $46,235 for men (Peterson, et al.) Additionally, in 2008, “violence and abuse constitute up to 37.5% of total healthcare costs, or up to $750 billion” (Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault). Additionally, the immediate medical costs for victims who seek care is $2,084 (The RAND Corporation). In terms of long term medical costs, women who have experienced any kind of abuse have health care costs, on average, 19% higher than women who report never having been abused (Futures Without Violence).
Survivors can attempt to recover some of the costs of their victimization through Crime Victim Compensation Programs, but some of the requirements of these programs, like being required to make a police report, may make it an unlikely option for many. Given that upwards of 60% of survivors of sexual assault choose not to report to police, this is a significant barrier to compensation. Additionally, the National Association of Crime Victim Compensation Boards has reported that only 8% of funds go to victims of sexual violence (Women’s Policy Research).
One of the key ways to reduce the cost to survivors is by supporting anti-sexual violence interventions and supporting resources that help survivors pay for costs incurred. For example, the 1994 Violence Against Women Act “has been estimated to have a new benefit of $16.4 billion, including $14.8 billion in averted costs for survivors” (World Health Organization). The National Alliance to End Sexual Violence notes that funding for cost-effective programs, such as rape crisis centers, would help to reduce long term costs of rape for survivors and their communities. To reduce the cost of sexual violence, we must reduce its prevalence. However, programs which work to remedy harms and costs already incurred are also an essential stepping stone towards a world free from sexual violence, and it’s tangible and intangible consequences.
These materials have been prepared by Cohen Seglias for informational purposes only and are not intended and should not be construed as legal advice.