Facts of rape – the emotional impact (comparision between victims and non-victims)

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Women who reported an incident of sexual victimisation during the last year are the most likely to say they felt very unsafe walking alone in their area after dark. Women who had been victimised within the last five years were more likely to feel unsafe than women victimised more than five years ago. Women who had ever been sexually victimised were also more likely to say they felt unsafe walking alone in their area after dark than women who did not report an incident of sexual victimisation

These figures should not be taken at face value. It is likely that different victims will react and feel differently when placed in specific situations with different real or perceived threats. In particular, lack of numbers prevented the separation of women who were the victims of attacks by different perpetrators. For example, it may be that women who were attacked outdoors by a stranger would be more likely to fear walking
alone than women not attacked in a public place.  However, it could also be argued that any traumatic sexual victimisation will affect a victim’s feelings of vulnerability, trust or self-confidence and that this is the key factor when considering broad-brush attitude questions such as these.

The main British Crime Survey also contains a question asking whether women are worried about being raped. Again, it must be remembered that this attitude question is asked very early on in the main part of the BCS questionnaire, not in the specific context of the self-completion module;
and refers to women’s general worry about being the victim of rape, not survivors’ specific worries about being re-victimised. Lack of numbers also meant that responses had to be compared for victims of any sexual attack, not just rape victims. Bearing these limitations in mind, levels of worry among non-victims and those who had ever been a victim of a sexual attack were very similar. However, there is again more of a difference between non-victims and those recently victimised.

 

It must be remembered that some women in the ‘non-victims’ category may actually be victims who chose not to disclose this to the survey. These findings also lend weight to the argument that responses to ‘worry’ questions are determined more by experiences and consequences than by perceived risk

 

The 2000 self-completion module asked victims whether they experienced certain emotions after their most recent incident of sexual victimisation. Victims of attacks by partners or expartners appear, in some ways, to be slightly more emotionally affected by their experiences than women attacked by either strangers or acquaintances. Over four-fifths of women attacked by partners or ex-partners felt very angry and very upset by the incident, compared to about three-quarters of women victimised by acquaintances or strangers. However, victims of partner or ex-partner attacks were less likely to be very shocked by their victimisation than were victims of stranger attacks (64% Vs 76%).

 

 

 

 

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Facts of rape – who are the victims

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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

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.

INCOME

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

MARITAL STATUS

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.

EMPLOYMENT STATUS

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

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