Sexual Violence Statistics, Facts & Busting Myths

Sexual violence is a serious crime and needs to be treated as such at all times – however, many individuals can be met with victim blaming, myths and a series of claims. More individuals need to learn and understand how to support people who are going through the trauma that is left following sexual assault and sexual violence. With a greater understanding of the myths and statistics, ICENA will support you in understanding the realities of what victims face on a daily basis.

Sexual Violence Statistics

From understanding how few people are jailed to knowing how likely it is that victims will be attacked by someone they know, the sexual violence statistics in the UK are shocking. As the percentage of perpetrators who are jailed is so small in comparison o those who are accused, it’s not a widely covered nor discussed area. Looking at the realities of sexual violence – across all aspects – is undeniably awe-striking, and in order to help victims worldwide, it’s necessary for more people to differentiate between fact and fiction when it comes to the statistics.

What is Sexual Assault?

The thing that seperates sex from sexual assault is consent. This means that both people are wilfully agreeing to what’s happening. The term “sexual assault” refers to any act of physical, psychological, or emotional aggression in the form of a sexual act perpetrated on someone against their will. It may involve forcing or coercing someone to observe or participate in any sexual acts.

Sexual assault can happen to anybody, at any time, for a variety of reasons. It does not always imply the use of physical force and can result in emotional or psychological trauma as well as bodily harm that may be difficult to detect. As a result, we employ the term “assault” and take reports seriously just like those involving violent, physical assaults.

In 2020, 16% of people reported their Sexual Assault to the police

Sexual Violence happens daily, but few cases go reported due to various factors – it can be a harrowing experience to go through and with the low-prosecution rates, many people would rather avoid it and attempt to push it from their mind. The Office of National Statistics (ONS) did their yearly Crime Survey for England and Wales in March 2020, which saw that only 16% of people surveyed who had experienced sexual assault reported it to the police.

Citing their reasons, of which they could pick multiple, 40% felt embarrassed, 38% thought the police would be unable to help, 34% thought it would be humiliating, and a quarter said they didn’t think the police would believe them.

When asked if they had told anyone at all, 69% of people say they told someone – 60% of which told someone they knew personally, like a family member or a friend.

The NHS encourages people to support people they know have been sexually assaulted by respecting their decisions on whether to go to the police or not. Sexual Assault Referral Centres will be able to provide the much-needed support for individuals whether they choose to go to the police or not, it’s important for victims to be aware of the options they have available at all times.

In 2020, of the 16% reported, 21% were charged

One of the biggest fears for victims of sexual violence is the thought of reporting someone to the police and not seeing an outcome. This is why there is so much advice on keeping clothes and anything that can contribute to evidence in a separate bag, but it still doesn’t make it easy to prosecute.

In the same survey, ONS looked at the outcomes of all cases, which saw an arrest made in 39% of all cases reported, while 21% were formally charged. In these cases, 9% couldn’t find the person who had sexually assaulted or been violent towards the individual.

Women are more likely to know their perpetrator than men

Sexual Violence is any sexual act or attempt of a sexual act by coercion or violence, this can happen to anybody – with both men and women victims of sexual violence. In 2020, of those who answered the same survey, it was stated that sexual violence in women is far more likely to be committed by somebody known to the victim.

Reports against a partner or ex-partner were the highest at 45%, while another known person was 37%, while a stranger was – a still high – 15%. Meanwhile, this was the complete opposite for men, with strangers at 43%, while a partner or ex-partner was 25% and other known was 32%.

Sexual assault by someone known to the victim is incredibly high, with 37% of attacks taking place at the victims home, and 26% taking place at the perpetrator’s property.

Myths & Facts About Sexual Violence

Some of the statistics are incredibly hard-hitting, and they need to be relayed because so many forget that the myths about sexual violence are exactly that. We have collated some of the most common myths and facts about sexual violence to help readers gain an accurate understanding of incidents happening daily and all over the world.

Most sexual assaults are by strangers
In the UK this varies for men and women, while this is accurate for men, for women 15% of sexual assaults were from strangers. Most come from people they know and trust.

Sexual assault occurs when someone makes a mistake
Sexual assault is a crime, not a mistake. It is unwanted sexual contact through force, threat, coercion or intimidation. Any kind of sexual interaction without consent and which needs to be encouraged and forced is illegal.

Sexual assault occurs when people dress provocatively
This is absolutely not true. Firstly, it is never the victim’s fault under any kind of circumstances, but secondly, it doesn’t matter what people are wearing, assaults still take place. Sexual assaults are violent attacks, it is not an individual getting swept up in a moment of passion. They are illegal and aggressive.

Men do not get sexually assaulted
Anyone can be victim to sexual assault, it isn’t avoided based on whether you are a male or a female. Only 16% of all sexual violence cases were reported in 2020, according to ONS, it is incomprehensible to think that of those 16, and the further 84 who didn’t report, none were men. ONS state that men have a history of being attacked by strangers (43%), though sexual assault of men is greatly underreported.


For anyone in need of support, there are some incredible resources available through the NHS, including Sexual Assault Referral Centres, and for anyone who needs training on how to provide support, you can contact ICENA here. Also, if you are someone  who has experienced sexual abuse or violence, or for anyone who is looking for further information on the subject, please read more at Rape Crisis England and Wales.