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ONS survey reveals level of sexual harassment against women

One in four women in England and Wales have experienced sexual assault, included attempts, since age of 16

Nearly a quarter of women have experienced sexual assault or attempted sexual assault since the age of 16, while one in 14 has experienced rape or attempted rape, according to new figures from the Crime Survey for England and Wales.

More than 750,000 adults aged 16-74 were victims of sexual assault or attempted sexual assault in the year ending March 2020, according to the data published by the ONS. There were 618,000 female victims, four times as many as males.

The figures also reveal that the number of sexual offenses reported to the police – which remains well below the number of estimated victims – dropped slightly after almost tripling in recent years. Police recorded 162,936 offenses in the year ending March 2020, a 0.7% decline in the previous year.

The latest estimates from the survey suggest that 16% of female adult victims and 19% of male adult victims of rape reported it to the police.

According to the survey, 22.9% of women said they had experienced sexual assault or attempted sexual assault since the age of 16, ranging from indecent exposure and unwanted touching to rape and assault by penetration.

“These latest figures confirm that the prevalence of sexual violence and abuse remains very high, that women are disproportionately impacted by these traumatic crimes, and that the majority of victims and survivors don’t feel confident to report to the police,” said Katie Russell, a national spokesperson for Rape Crisis England & Wales.

“While criminal justice outcomes remain so low and the majority of sexual offenders walk free after what can be a very long and sometimes retraumatising process, perhaps it is unsurprising that less than 20% of victims and survivors choose to report.”

Pressure has been mounting on the government to tackle violence against women and girls. On Wednesday it announced that police forces would have to record misogyny as a hate crime in the future, after a campaign lead by the Labour MP Stella Creasy.

The crime survey suggests the proportion of people aged 16 to 59 who were victims of sexual offences in the last year fell to 2.2%, from 2.9% the previous year. The figure has hovered between 1.5% and 3.0% for the past 15 years. The drop was due to a fall in the numbers of reports of indecent exposures or unwanted sexual touching, but the number of rapes remained the same.

The survey found that 3.8% of adults aged 16 to 74 – 1.6 million people – had experienced rape or attempted rape since the age of 16 – 7.1% of women and 0.5% of men.

More than half (53%) of women who had experienced rape or assault by penetration, including attempts, had been attacked by a partner or ex-partner, while 10% were attacked by a family member. For men, 20% were victims to a partner or ex-partner, and 9% to a family member.

Women were more likely to know their perpetrator than men. One in seven female victims (15%) reported being assaulted by a stranger, compared with almost half of male victims. In the last three years of recorded data, 98% of rape victims said the perpetrator was male.

On Thursday a review in Scotland put forward radical proposals to improve the prosecution of rape, such as specialist courts and the piloting of single-judge rape trials. A UK government review of the system in England and Wales, launched after growing concerns about falling rape prosecution numbers, is due to report in the late spring.

Courtesy: The Guardian

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