Just one in SIX women report sex assaults, figures show

Just one in SIX women report sex assaults: Shocking toll shows majority of attacks go unpunished because victims fear they won’t be believed or helped

  • Figures show more than one in 20 women have been raped since they were 16  
  • More than 700,000 adults were victims of sexual assault in year to March 2020
  • The disclosures come amid a national conversation around women’s safety 

Fewer than one in six women who are raped or sexually assaulted report it to police, figures show.

This is because they are embarrassed, fear they won’t be believed or are sceptical officers will help.

More than one in 20 women have been raped since they were 16, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Almost half of those attacked were victims of their partner or ex-partner, while women were almost twice as likely to be attacked in their own home. A stock image is used above [File photo]

Its annual Crime Survey for England and Wales revealed yesterday that 773,000 adults – including men – were victims of sexual assault in the year to March 2020. 

The ONS estimates that, each year, one in 40 women aged between 16 and 24 in England and Wales experience rape or attempted rape.

The disclosures come amid a national conversation around women’s safety following the abduction and murder of Sarah Everard earlier this month.

The survey is particularly useful in gaining an understanding of women’s safety because it captures sexual assaults that were not reported – 84 per cent of women polled did not tell the police, with 39.6 per cent of these citing fear of embarrassment as their main reason. 

A similar number thought the police would be unable to help, a quarter feared the police would not believe them and 15 per cent said they ‘didn’t think the police would be sympathetic’.

The ONS estimates that, each year, one in 40 women aged between 16 and 24 in England and Wales experience rape or attempted rape. A stock image is used above [File photo]

Of those women who did go to the police, 18.8 per cent said the police took no action while 11.4 per cent said the perpetrator got off with just a warning.

Almost half of those attacked were victims of their partner or ex-partner, while women were almost twice as likely to be attacked in their own home. 

Overall, police in England and Wales recorded a total of 162,936 sexual offences in the year – a 0.7 per cent fall.

Helen Ross, from the ONS Centre for Crime and Justice, said: ‘The drop was driven by reductions in indecent exposure or unwanted sexual touching, however there was no change in the prevalence of rape or assault by penetration.

‘The number of sexual offences recorded by the police has fallen slightly, after nearly tripling in recent years. The number of offences recorded by the police remains well below the number of victims estimated by the survey.’

Sarah Jones, Labour’s policing spokesman, said: ‘These figures show the scale of sexual violence that women face. It’s unacceptable that so few victims feel able to come forward and so many perpetrators are escaping justice. This has to be the time for change.’

Labour has called for harsher penalties for rape and domestic murder, as well as action on stalking and street harassment.

On Monday, the Court of Appeal dismissed a legal challenge to a change in policy by the Crown Prosecution Service that has seen a decline in the number of rape cases going to court.

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