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ONS releases latest sexual offence figures

Today (18 March 2021), the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released the latest sexual offence data for England and Wales, covering the year to 31 March 2020 and bringing together figures on sexual offences from the Crime survey for England and Wales (CSEW) and police recorded crime from the Home Office.

Main points:

  • There were 773,000 adults aged 16 to 74 years who were victims of sexual assault (including attempts) in the last year, with almost four times as many female victims (618,000) as male victims (155,000).
  • Over the past 15 years, the prevalence of sexual assault among the adult population aged 16 to 59 years has fluctuated between 1.5% and 3.0%, with a decrease in the latest year to 2.2% driven by a reduction in indecent exposure or unwanted sexual touching; however, the prevalence of rape or assault by penetration over this time has remained around 0.5%.
  • While the volume of sexual offences recorded by the police has almost tripled in recent years, the latest figures for the year ending March 2020 show a decrease of 0.7% to 162,936 offences compared with the previous year
  • Changes in police recording practices and victims' willingness to report are likely to result in annual variations in the number of offences recorded by the police; however, police recorded crimes remain well below the number of victims estimated by the survey.
  • Latest estimates from the CSEW showed that fewer than one in six (16%) female victims and fewer than one in five (19%) male victims aged 16 to 59 years of sexual assault by rape or penetration since the age of 16 years reported it to the police.

Katie Russell, national spokesperson for Rape Crisis England & Wales said:

"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.

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

Through our frontline work, we know sexual violence and abuse can have wide-ranging, long-term impacts on survivors' health and lives but not all those impacted by these crimes have access to the specialist services that can help them cope and recover.

Criminal and social justice for all victims and survivors of child sexual abuse, rape and all forms of sexual violence should be an urgent national priority."