The BCS estimates that 4.9% of women have been raped at least once since age 16 and that 9.7% of women have suffered some form of sexual victimisation since that age.
The 2000 BCS estimates that 0.9% of women suffered some form of sexual victimisation during the last year and that 0.4% of women suffered rape.
The 2000 BCS estimates that there are approximately 754,000 females aged 16 to 59 in England and Wales who have been the victim of rape once or more since the age of 16. This includes approximately 61,000 victimised in 1999 alone.
This graph presents the best estimates of the number of female rape victims. Since estimates are based on a sample of the population, they are subject to sampling error. This means the estimates may not exactly represent the true number of victims in the population. The first table shows the best estimates and the range within which there is a 95% chance that the true figures lie. For example, there is a 95% chance that the true number of ‘since age 16’ female rape victims lies between 660,000 and 849,000.
So who are the victims and who is at risk?
Here I hope to cover how socio-demographic factors influence the risk of being a victim of sexual offences, based on incidents of victimisation from 1999 and 2000.
Age is the biggest risk factor for being a victim of a sexual offence. Young women aged 16 to 19 are most likely to be victimised. Women aged 20 to 24 have an almost equally high risk of experiencing some form of sexual victimisation. With regard to rape, 16 to 19-yearold women were over four times as likely to have reported being raped in the last year than women from any other age group. The risks for these younger women are statistically significant
This finding is in line with those from most other surveys on violence against women. The significantly higher risks revealed for younger women are likely be ‘real’, reflecting the lifestyles and circumstances of younger women. It may also be possible that levels of sexual activity have changed over the years. If young people are becoming sexually active earlier and having more sexual partners, this could have an effect on levels of victimisation. A related point is that the key characteristics could be those of men, rather than women – young women are more likely to socialise and be around young men aged under 25, who are more likely to be the perpetrators of crime than any other group.
Risks were highest for women from households with low levels of income. For instance, women from households with an income of less than £10,000 per year were more than three times as likely to have reported being raped than women from households with an income of more than £20,000 a year
For any incident of sexual victimisation, women from lowest income households were also more likely to report being victimised than women from the most affluent households. The risks for any sexual victimisation (which includes rape) were statistically significant – but the differences were not as marked as for rape. Young women were not disproportionately represented in the lowest income bracket. Indeed, this is a pattern of victimisation replicated for crime more generally: the 2001 British Crime Survey also suggests people from low income households are more likely to be the victim of a violent offence, or a burglary
Women who were either married or cohabiting are the least likely to report being sexually victimised in the last year. For any incident of sexual victimisation, risks were highest for single women. For rape, risks were highest for divorcees. The risk of suffering any sexual victimisation for single women reflects the same pattern as the risks for young women – the vast majority of single women reporting sexual victimisation are from the 16 to 24 age group. The risk of suffering any sexual victimisation and of suffering rape was identical for women who were separated.
Although divorcees reflected much higher last year prevalence risks than women who were married or cohabiting, further analysis revealed that around a half of these women were victimised by a partner or ex-partner. It is possible that sexual victimisation may be a contributory factor in the break-up of some abusive relationships.
Students are more likely to report an incident of sexual victimisation than any other occupational group. However, in terms of rape, students were the least likely to have reported an inciden. Although the risk of suffering any sexual victimisation was statistically significant for students, the risks in relation to rape were not significant for any occupational group