The findings of a new federal data released on Wednesday reveal that nearly one-fifth of U.S. women have faced sexual assault at some time in their lives.
The startling revelation by the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, which was conducted by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, also pointed out that, one in four has been the victim of severe physical violence by a boyfriend or husband.
The survey also found that one in six women has experienced a stalking that made her very fearful or believed that someone close to her would be harmed or killed.
In a year, that translates to more than 12 million women and men with more than 1 million women reported being the victims of a rape or an attempted rape in the 12 months preceding the survey, the officials said.
Of women who have been victimized, almost 70 percent experienced some kind of violence from an intimate partner before the age of 25, while about 80 percent of female rape victims were attacked before age 25.
"This report highlights the heavy toll that sexual violence, stalking and intimate-partner violence places on adults in this country," the Washington Post quoted Linda Degutis, who heads the CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, as saying.
The results come from a national representative telephone survey of 16,507 U.S. adults and mark the first of what will now become an annual survey of domestic violence.
Advocacy groups said the statistics underscore the severity of the problem.
"The prevalence of sexual and intimate-partner violence is staggering," Esta Soler of Futures Without Violence, a San Francisco-based group, said.