Risk of adult woman being abducted

I had a conversation at lunch today in which a co-worker commented on how dangerous the world is today, saying that she is nervous about traveling long distances alone and always worries about her grown daughers traveling by themselves. I said that the odds of being an adult woman being abducted are probably less than being struck by lightning, but she watches a lot of TV (Greta van Susteren?) and says that abductions are a lot more frequent than I would think. I tried googling for stats, but came up dry.

I took upon myself the mammoth task of googling “kidnapping” and came up with…

Not sure if that answers your question…

Just for comparison the odds of being struck by lightning are about 1 in 3 million, so unfortunately it seems like there’s a much higher chance of being abducted.

Also, just to point out, being worried about your daughters traveling alone wouldn’t just be fear of abduction, it would be of any of the other horrible things that could happen as well: rape and sexual assault wouldn’t be counted in those abduction figures for instance, and sadly they’re probably both a lot more likely to happen. I don’t think it’s particularly unreasonable for a woman to worry about traveling long distances alone - certainly if it involved traveling at night or abroad anyway.

I’ve always been under the impression that the biggest danger to women of reproductive age is their men, rather than random strangers. Not suggesting solo midnight strolls down dark alleys, and I always look around me in parking lots and have my car keys in hand. I’ll go look for some statistics now.

Not really, although it gives some rough leads. I’m looking for the number of adults kidnapped by strangers. You can’t quite get that from that page, but if 518 people were abducted by strangers in 2007, that’s a rate of about 1 in 580,000 for the entire population. The adult population is almost 200 million, so if a little over half are women, and all of the victims of abduction by strangers are adult women, that gives a rate of about 1 in 200,000.

The problem is that I imagine the total number of stranger abductions is higher (since people will go missing under unknown circumstances), but only a small percentage of those will be adults.

According to The National Weather Service, the odds are about 1/500,000 per year. And 1/5000 over a lifetime.

My thoughts exactly when reading the OP: who said anything about being “abducted”? She doesn’t want to get raped.

True, but she was especially afraid of being abducted while driving in her car between towns. If you have stats on the number of violent crimes per mile traveled, that would be great! I wanted to focus on what seemed to be her greatest fear first (and what I specifically claimed was less likely than being struck by lightening) but I think all of her fears are overblown. Not that rape isn’t something to be scared of, but
as maladroit pointed out, the real danger is from family and aquaintences, not people in dark alleys or lonely roads.

Well, define “traveling”. There are definitely parts of Central and South America where abduction by strangers is a much, much bigger concern than it is in the US.

Just to clarify the backstory a little bit, the conversation started off talking about a movie in which someone was kidnapped by cannibals after making a wrong turn. I think the movie was called "Kidnapped by Cannibals." :wink: My co-worker opined that while they might not be cannibals, there were people out there who might kidnap you if you took a wrong turn, and she was scared of them. When I said those fears are more creatures of the media than realistic dangers to worry about, she and another woman brought up things like car-jackings and blue-light rapists, but I mostly wanted to counter her fear of [del]cannibals[/del] kidnappers.

ETA - That’s a good point, Zsofia, but I’m just interested in US statistics. I don’t even want to know what horrors my co-worker thinks might lurk beyond our borders!

The key point is violence from STRANGERS is vanishingly rare. The chances of randomly taking a wrong turn and ending up kidnapped/murdered/eaten is orders of magnitude lower than the total rate of kidnapping/murder/canaballism in the country as a whole.

So while the chance of an adult getting kidnapped is not lower than that chance of getting struck by lightning, the chances of getting randomly kidnapped by someone you never met before probably is.

In 1990 a 21 year old student named Linda Shaw went missing as she drove from her family home in Brampton, Ontario to the University of Western Ontario (barely a two hour drive). I think she was returning to school after the Easter vacation, driving alone at night. DNA evidence confirmed the identity of her killer almost 15 years later.

It was considered a huge big deal because such a random crime (and therefore exceptionally difficult to solve) was so highly unusual. Most disappearances are not “total stranger” type of abductions. It got tons of media attention because it was so remarkably rare and was a “worst nightmare” scenario for so many people.

But your co-worker needs some common sense. Evil predators/serial killers/cannibals are not going to wait for the one-in-a-million chance that someone out of pure happenstance will make a wrong turn, AND will be alone, AND will be relatively helpless, AND will have a breakdown, etc.

Tell your co-worker the cannibals are far more likely to stalk her for awhile, get used to her daily routine, and then strike when they know she is most vulnerable.

ETA: Could someone pass the ketchup?

True, but most women live their lives in a way to limit their vulnerability to attacks from strangers. It doesn’t mean those attacks wouldn’t happen if women were less careful.

No, but even so, nearly all attacks on a person will come from someone they know. In general, the three precursors to a person committing a crime are:

Stress - Losing a job, being dumped, death in the family, needing money, etc.
Interest - As in, in a particular individual, type of person, political thought, or business
Opportunity - As it says

Items #2 and #3 describe why it’s generally true that a person is attacked or kidnapped by someone they know. He will either be specifically interested in you, or know you well enough to be able to spot an opportunity.

If a woman truly wanted to be safe, her best bet would be to avoid men who have become stressed in their life. This is when we are most likely to react irrationally. (The same holds true for women as well, of course, but statistically speaking it’s principally men who act out in such cases.)

As a woman who travels regularly alone at home and abroad, with the attitude of “If they rape me, they rape me, but hell if I’m going to live a half-lived life because of a bunch of asshole rapists”, I too would be interested in some statistics. It seems to me that a lot of women convince themselves to miss a lot of life because of irrational fears.

It seems to me, from the statistics, you are far more likely to end up dead/raped/missing hanging out at home with your boyfriend than going on a nice trip taking basic safety precautions. Can any of you number crunchers confirm this?

The website of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children gives this (from several years ago, apparently out of a total of over 70 million children):

It’s not clear how this relates to the abduction of non-juveniles. But I think it suggests this is much rarer than it is often thought to be.

According to statistics I read just recently, the number of children kidnapped by strangers each year in the U.S. is somewhere are 110. In comparison, about 75 people are killed by lightning each year (and about 600 are struck by lightning). I don’t know what the number of adult women kidnapped each year is, but I suspect it’s considerably less than the number of children kidnapped by strangers. Kidnapping an adult is harder than kidnapping a child. I suspect that most of the adults that are kidnapped are for ransom. I therefore suspect that the number of women abducted each year is less than the number killed by lightning.

Of course, this isn’t all the ways that women can be hurt. They could be raped or killed or assaulted. I don’t understand what that has to do with long-distance travelling in any case. If you’re going to be kidnapped or raped or killed or assaulted, that could happen near home just as easy as far away from home. If someone wants to be safe, they shouldn’t go to dangerous places. A dangerous place could be a nearby park that isn’t safe at night. It could be home, when a women’s husband is obviously violent and angry.

I would like to see a breakdown in the numbers of unarmed women who are abducted, versus:

the number of women who have a license for concealed carry, or otherwise carry a handgun who were abducted.

Its my understanding that armed women are rarely abducted, if at all.

It’s probably impossible to tell. As I said, the number of adult American women abducted each year is probably pretty small, well under 100. Not very many people are carrying handguns at any point, so not very many of that small amount of abducted women are carrying handguns. That’s too small a sample to draw any deduction from.

FBI statistics from here:


Forcible rape average for all cities listed in table 4: 112 per 100,000

You’ll note that the Wikipedia gives a lower number (~32 per 100,000). This may be because they are getting their data from a different source, or more likely because it includes rural areas, not just cities. For someone living in a city, the 112 figure will probably be more accurate.

73% of women who are raped, know their attacker (according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics).

As is everyone else, I’m having the darnedest time finding statistics on non-child abductions. This probably gives a better indication than anything of the frequency of it.