The number of women and girls being treated in English hospitals after suffering physical, mental or sexual abuse has risen by almost a third in five years, analysis of NHS statistics shows.
Hospitals in England treated 1,012 female assault victims in the year 2019-20 where the cause of admission was a form of maltreatment, including physical or sexual abuse, torture or mental cruelty. That was an increase of 31% compared with the same figures for the year 2015-16, when 774 cases were recorded.
Rape or sexual assault of female victims also increased by 89% since 2015-16, rising from 116 to 219.
Katie Russell, national spokesperson for Rape Crisis England & Wales said:
“The 89% increase in women and girls presenting at hospital following rape or sexual assault is particularly striking among these new figures.
Through our frontline work with victims and survivors at Rape Crisis, we know that a healthcare professional can often be the first person a woman or girl discloses her experience of sexual violence or abuse to. So it’s vital that all NHS workers - from GPs, to A&E staff, to midwives and health visitors - have an awareness of trauma and its impacts, and of how to respond to these disclosures appropriately.
It’s also essential that hospitals build strong links with their local Rape Crisis Centres, so victims and survivors can receive the specialist, trauma-informed services they need and want in the longer term.
It’s important to remember too that one in every five women in England and Wales has experienced some form sexual violence or abuse since she turned 16 years old so these figures still only reflect a small fraction of those impacted by these serious crimes.
Government must prioritise sustainable, long-term funding for specialist Rape Crisis support services if the needs of all victims and survivors are to be met.”