Findings from a Crime survey conducted by the Office for National Statistics show that one in five women in England and Wales have experience some form of sexual assault since the age of 16.
The analysis adds that in the past year alone, more than 510,000 women experienced some type of sexual assault – an estimated 3.1% of all women aged 16 to 59. An estimated 144,00 of these cases were women who had experienced rape, or attempted rape.
The ONS has said that these figures show that the scale of the problem has changed little since 2005.
It is worth noting that whilst the number of assaults reported in this data is high, the real number is likely to be far higher. Unreported sexual assault has been a large obstacle for progress in the seriousness of sexual assault in Britain. In 2013, British Transport Police acted on a survey that suggested 90% of sexual assaults and unwanted sexual behaviour on public transport went unreported. The ONS claims that over 80% of sexual assault victims do not report these crimes to the police.
Sexual assault data shows that women are more than five times more likely to experience incidents than men, with less than 4% of men experiencing sexual assault in their lifetime. The latest survey reveals that the number of reported crimes has risen – in the year to March 2017, there was a 14% increase in the number of sexual offences recorded by police, which the ONS said is partly due to improved recording.
The scale of sexual assault and unwanted sexual behaviour in the United Kingdom and elsewhere has seen increased scrutiny and visibility in the last year, helped largely by high profile cases of assault such as the Harvey Weinstein scandal, which helped launch the #MeToo movement into mainstream popularity. In the wake of the scandal, the UK government saw multiple allegations as Westminster staff came forward accusing MPs and other senior staff of unwanted advances.