One in five women have experienced sexual assault, figures show

More than three million women are estimated to have been victims of offences including rape, indecent exposure or unwanted touching, according to the Office for National Statistics

May Bulman
Social Affairs Correspondent
Thursday 08 February 2018 20:38 GMT
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The Crime Survey for England and Wales estimated that 20 per cent of women and 4 per cent of men have experienced some type of sexual assault since the age of 16
The Crime Survey for England and Wales estimated that 20 per cent of women and 4 per cent of men have experienced some type of sexual assault since the age of 16

One in five women in England and Wales have been subject to sexual assault, official figures show, prompting renewed calls for an injection of funding into support centres for victims.

More than three million women are estimated to have been victims of offences including rape, indecent exposure or unwanted touching, according to figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

It said the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) estimated that 20 per cent of women and 4 per cent of men have experienced some type of sexual assault since the age of 16, equivalent to 3.4 million female victims and 631,000 male victims.

Sexual assaults measured by the CSEW cover rape or assault by penetration, including attempted attacks, as well as indecent exposure or unwanted touching.

Indecent exposure or unwanted sexual touching (11.5 per cent of adults aged 16 to 59, 3.8 million victims) was more common than rape or assault by penetration, (3.4 per cent, 1.1 million victims).

In the most recent figures for rape or assault by penetration, including attempts, 38 per cent of victims reported that the perpetrator was under the influence of alcohol. The same proportion of victims (38 per cent) said they were under the influence of alcohol themselves.

Katie Russell, a spokesperson for Rape Crisis, told The Independent the charity had answered the highest number of calls on record, with more than 200,000 victims of sexual assault having reached out to them for support.

She added that in the year to March 2017 there were around 5,000 individuals on Rape Crisis waiting lists across the country.

“The rise can be taken with cautious optimism, that survivors are now more willing to seek specialist support and more confident that they will be listened to and treated sensitively,” Ms Russell said.

“But the key issue is around resourcing. It’s absolutely vital now that we see a serious injection of funding into all the services that work with victims and survivors.

“Rape crisis centres operate very much hand-to-mouth, and don’t have the capacity to meet the unprecedented need and demand. There aren’t nearly as many centres as there should be.

“Regardless of the exact circumstances and the exact details, these crimes can have long-lasting and very serious and wide-ranging impact on survivors, hence the vital need for specialist support services.

“We work with many people who haven’t spoken to anyone else about what’s happened to them.”

Figures on the nature of violent crime and domestic abuse were also released on Thursday.

There were approximately 1.2 million violent crime incidents in the year to March, according to the crime survey. This figure showed no statistical change from the previous year.

An estimated 26 per cent of women and 15 per cent of men aged 16 to 59 had experienced some form of domestic abuse since the age of 16.

On these figures, Katie Ghose, chief executive of Women’s Aid, said: “Today’s ONS statistics show that levels of domestic abuse experienced by women continue to be prevalent.

“Domestic abuse remains at epidemic levels with 82 women being killed by a former or current partner in the year to March 2017. Yet too often domestic abuse is ignored or condoned.

“We need to tackle public attitudes that continue to blame victims for the abuse; over 7 per cent of the general public reported that they believe it was always, mostly or sometimes acceptable to hit or slap a partner if they were having an affair or cheating on them.”

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