6 Unsettling Sexual Abuse Statistics

How do we define sexual abuse?

Sexual abuse is any non-consensual sexual act whereby a person is forced to perform against their will. Sexual abuse does not just involve the act of penetration, it can also involve forced kissing, groping, or sexual harassment. Perpetrators of sexual abuse do not discriminate; anyone can experience sexual abuse irrespective of age, gender, race, background, or class. Sexual abuse can be hard to define because of the many different forms it can take on, the different levels of frequency, the variation of circumstances it can occur within, and the different relationships that it may be associated with. The effects of sexual abuse can vary; abuse can leave survivors with permanent emotional damage, and sometimes physical damage too.

Sexual abuse can have life-long consequences for survivors. It can lead to anxiety disorders; people who experience sexual abuse in childhood or their late teens may find that the emotional trauma can materialize years later in adulthood. If you have experienced sexual abuse, it is important to recognize that it wasn’t your fault and that you are not alone. The following section provides an insight into the harrowing statistics of sexual abuse in recent years.


  1. How many men and women have experienced sexual abuse and/or violence?

According to the feminist organization Rape Crisis England & Wales, statistics show that more than 1 in 5 women and 1 in 20 men have experienced rape or sexual assault as adults. To put these startling statistics into perspective, there are almost 5 million women in the UK who have experienced sexual abuse in one shape or form.

      2. How many children have experienced sexual abuse or rape?

In 2011, the children’s charity organization NSPCC interviewed 2,275 children aged 11-17 about their experiences of sexual abuse. 4.8% of 11- to 17-year-olds (of which 7% were girls and 2.6% were boys) reported encountering contact sexual abuse at some point in their lives. This figure doesn’t account for cases of non-contact sexual abuse (such as flashing). In other words, 1 in 20 children in the UK has experienced sexual abuse.

      3. How many people are assaulted or raped every year?

The 2019 Crime Survey for England and Wales found that 618,000 women and 155,000 men experienced rape or sexual assault in the year 2019-2020. These harrowing figures suggest that every hour more than 70 women in England and Wales are subject to sexual abuse of some kind.

     4. Who is likely to be the perpetrator of rape/sexual assault? (stranger or other)

There is a consensus that perpetrators of sexual assault are unknown to their victims. Most people conjure the image of a darkly lit alleyway with the abuser jumping from the bushes. However, studies show that most female victims and survivors (86%) are raped by someone they know. Nearly half of these (45%) are assaulted by a partner or ex-partner.

With regards to male victims and survivors of rape, 60% are raped by someone they know and 25% are attacked by a partner or ex-partner.

     5. How often is sexual abuse reported to the police?

Sexual abuse often goes unreported. Due to the stigma around survivors of sexual abuse, many fear to speak out for fear of not being believed or societal perception of “they were asking for it”. According to a 2005 study by Amnesty International, a third of people believe women who flirt are partially responsible for being raped. In 2020, the Crime Survey for England and Wales found that Fewer than 1 in 6 women aged 16 to 59 who experience rape or assault by penetration as an adult report it to the police. For men, it is fewer than 1 in 5 men.

    6. How likely is it that perpetrators of sexual abuse/rape will be charged?

The stats surrounding rape convictions are appalling. Less than 1 in 60 survivors who report a rape incident to the police see their perpetrator charged – let alone convicted. In 2020, 51,367 rape survivors (who had reported what happened) never saw someone charged for the heinous crime committed against them.

How we can help

If you or someone you know has experienced sexual abuse, it is important to report it to the police as soon as possible. If you wish to claim compensation for the abuse you have experienced, our team of professional, empathetic solicitors can help. Please call +0151 242 5111 for more information.

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