Women subjected to at least 26 sexual crimes on average in their lifetime as study reveals scale of 'collective trauma'

  • By ITV News Digital Content Producer Kat Clementine

Women suffer at least 26 sexual crimes on average in their lifetime, a new study reveals which exposes their 'collective trauma'.

The study, of more than 20,000 females, found that 99.7% had been repeatedly subjected to violence including assaults, harassment and rape in their lifetime.

And the majority of women and girls surveyed did not report physical violence crimes committed against them to the police.

Only 2% of women reported that anyone was convicted of any of the crimes committed against them in childhood and this rose slightly to only 4% of women reported that anyone was convicted of any of the crimes committed against them in adulthood.

The study, funded by VictimFocus and carried out by Dr Jessica Taylor and Jaimi Shrive, found 22,419 women reported that they had collectively been subjected to at least 808,607 acts of violence including 216,965 physical assaults and 363,964 sexual assaults.

Overall, this meant that of 22,419 women living in the UK, they were all subjected to at least 37 acts of violence each, in their lives since birth.

One woman told ITV News of the multiple incidents she has faced in her lifetime, including witnessing a man perform a sex act on himself on a bus, having a glass thrown at her by a jealous ex-partner who tried to control her and receiving an unsolicited nude photo.

She said: “The survey was an opportunity to say: this happens. It's been happening for years and it has to stop. These experiences have coloured the rest of my life. I don't go many places alone, am careful where I park or walk my dog, always think about escape routes.

"I would never go anywhere with a strange man. And I brought my daughter up the same way so the chain goes on." She was “not at all surprised” that the number of women who reported suffering violence was as high as 99.7%. "When we were discussing the subject at work back in 2019/20, none of the women I talked to were surprised, because almost everyone has at least one experience of their own to relate to," she said.

"I would have to search hard to find someone who hadn't experienced it in some form."

So what does this study respondent think needs to change? "Honestly, I think we have to rely a lot on men who aren't abusive to call out the ones who are. To challenge the words and behaviour of abusive men in their circle and on the street. Because let's face it, they sure as hell don't care what women think."

What did the study of 22,419 women reveal?

  • 99.7% of women had been repeatedly subjected to violence including assaults, harassment and rape

  • 82% were sexually harassed by someone and 62% were subjected to this at least 3 times, before the age of 18

  • 92% of women did not report physical violence crimes committed against them before the age of 18 to the police

  • 94% of violence against women was committed by male perpetrators

  • 97-99% of sexual violence against women was committed by male perpetrators

  • On average, women will be subjected to at least 26 sexual crimes in their lifespan. Of these, 13 will be committed before the age of 18 and a further 13 sexual crimes will be committed after their 18th birthday.

  • 98% of respondents disagreed with the statement: 'I feel I got justice for what was done to me'

  • And 93% felt feel that there is not enough support for women and girls who have been subjected to violence and abuse

The report, Understanding the scale of violence committed against women in the UK since birth, challenges the theory that violence against women and girls is rare or exaggerated.

"There were a few theories we wanted to test with this study – and firstly it was to see if it was only certain girls it has happened to – for example those who are vulnerable, have low self esteem, from deprived backgrounds," Dr Taylor said.

"We wanted to see whether those myths hold any water and they don’t."

One survivor, who is not named but took part in the study, told ITV News of the severe harassment she faced when she started divorce proceedings with her ex-husband.

She was raped in her sleep three times and he committed a further sexual assault on her.

"He said as I was still his wife he had a right to do that.

"The police have been informed but I was too scared to agree to a formal interview for fear of being charged with lying. I have known other women get charged when reporting rape."

33-year-old Sarah Everard was falsely arrested by then-police officer Wayne Couzens. Credit: PA

Last month, the disappearance of 33-year-old marketing executive Sarah Everard prompted an outpouring of shock and anger on social media as women across the country shared their experiences of feeling unsafe.

Dr Taylor witnessed this at the time of writing the report: "What we saw was the collective trauma of women laid bare." She is calling on the government to produce accurate, annual data as from now as "current statistics are easily dismissed".

ONS stats released in March this year revealed just one in six female victims of sexual assault in England and Wales reported it to police.

*Acts of violence in the study were defined as physical assault, physical abuse, sexual assault, rape, sexual harassment, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, forced pregnancies, forced terminations, sexual exploitation, sex trafficking, rape threats, death threats and digital sexual crimes such as being sent unsolicited images of nudity, being forced to watch porn and being forced to look at child abuse imagery.

If any of these issues have affected you, here's how you can get help and advice:

  • Call the National Domestic Abuse Helpline for free and confidential advice, 24 hours a day on 0808 2000 247.

  • Women's Aid has a range of direct services for survivors, including a live chat service and an online Survivors’ Forum.

  • The Men’s Advice Line is a confidential helpline for male victims of domestic abuse and those supporting them. Contact on: 0808 801 0327.

  • Galop runs the National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse specialist helpline. Contact: 0800 999 5428. Email: help@galop.org.uk.

  • Chayn provides online help and resources in a number of languages about identifying manipulative situations and how friends can support those being abused.