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%).