Life

One in five women has been sexually assaulted, new figures show

Posted by
Emily Reynolds
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New figures from the Office of National Statistics have revealed that one in five women has been sexually assaulted since the age of 16. 

New figures from the Crime Survey for England and Wales indicate that one in five women have experienced sexual assault since the age of 16. 

In the year up to March 2017, more than 510,000 women experienced assault of some kind – a figure that amounts to 3.1% of all women aged 16 to 59.  443,000 of these women experienced at least one assault involving “indecent exposure or unwanted touching”; a further 144,000 experienced “rape, attempted rape or assault by penetration”. 

Women are overwhelmingly the victims of sexual violence: five times more likely to experience assault than men. Less than 4% of men have experienced assault – around 138,000 in the last year and 646,000 since they were 16 – and those incidents generally involved unwanted touching or indecent exposure, rather than rape. 

121,187 offences were reported last year – a 14% increase. But perhaps more shockingly, 80% of victims didn’t report their experiences to police or authorities. 

The ONS points out that figures have stayed fairly stable since 2005 – indicating that the problem of violence against women is not improving. 

The figures also covered domestic violence, which around 7.5% of women (1.2 million) and 4.3% of men (713,000) experienced in the year up to March 2017. Overall, around 26% of women (4.3 million) and 15% of men (2.4 million) have experienced domestic abuse since age 16.

Women aged between 16 and 19 and between 20 and 24 were more likely to be victims of domestic abuse; similarly, women aged 16 to 19 were much more likely to be victims of any sexual assault than women of any other age.

Physical violence against women is also prevalent – half of all women murdered were killed by partners or ex-partners. Only 3% of men murdered were killed by partners or ex-partners.

The figures come shortly after a round of funding cuts to domestic violence refuges, which charities - including Women’s Aid - say will put women in danger. Under the new rules, more than 4000 women and children may be unable to access refuges.

The UN has previously put the figure of women worldwide experiencing physical or sexual violence at 35%, but has also pointed out studies that show that “up to 70% of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime”.

Rape Crisis estimates that around 85,000 women and 12,000 men are raped in England and Wales alone: around 11 rapes every hour. Its figures also suggest that 500,000 adults are sexually assaulted in England and Wales every year – and again point out that very few (around 15%) of those who experience violence report it to the police.

The charity also points out that around 90% of those who are raped know the perpetrator. 

Image: iStock  / Arika Lewis