Rape and sexual violence

Women of every age, ability, ethnicity and religious background can be raped. The responsibility for rape always lies with the attacker, and no woman deserves rape no matter where she was, what she was doing, what she was wearing, what she was saying, whether she was drunk or under the influence of drugs. 

Rape, sexual violence and abuse have a devastating impact on women, their families and friends and wider society. The impact is likely to affect mental, physical and sexual health. For more information about what is rape and sexual assault, including legal definitions, please see the Rape Crisis website.

  • 1 in 4 women suffer rape or attempted rape (Rape Crisis)
  • A minimum of 80,000 women annually suffer rape and attempted rape yet only 1 in 8 women report rape (Walby and Allen, Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Stalking: Findings from the British Crime Survey, 2004).
  • The majority of rapes – both reported and unreported – are committed by known men, and and the most common rapists are current and ex-husbands or partners (Truth About Rape)
  • A pilot helpline for adults who experienced childhood abuse received over 600 calls per week, suggesting vast unmet need (EVAW CEDAW Thematic Report).
  • The Home Office estimates that the total cost of sexual offences committed in England & Wales in 2003-04 was nearly £8.5 billion.    

Stern Review published - Rape Reporting in England and Wales PDF Print E-mail

Baroness Stern published her review into how rape complaints are handled by public authorities on Monday 15 March 2010.


The Government has also published an interim response to her review, which welcomes the review and accepts the direction it sets. There will be a fuller response to Baroness Stern's review and recommendations later in the year.


In response to The Stern Review, Vera Baird, Solicitor General, said:

"I am glad that Baroness Stern recognises the significant progress made since 1997. We will carefully consider all her recommendations and have given a preliminary, very positive, response to them today. I am very grateful to her for such a comprehensive and insightful report.

"However, I do have reservations about ceasing to refer to the widely used six per cent figure, which reflects the percentage of reports that produce a conviction. Although we don't count any other offence in this way, it is particularly meaningful as it reflects the high number of rape victims who drop out before they get to court, and we really need to focus on that group, as Baroness Stern herself says.

"We do, though, need to make more of the fact that when cases get to court the conviction rate is 58 per cent and that this has increased by more than half since 1997. This is largely because of the various steps we have taken to get victims to feel more confident that they will be supported. As Baroness Stern says, the Independent Sexual Violence Advisers play a significant role and these victims should feel more confident than ever about coming forward in the knowledge that they will be taken seriously and treated with dignity and respect.

"The importance of the significant increase in conviction rates is that it sends a signal out to rapists that they won't get away with it, these days."


Both reports are available on the GEO website: The Stern Review and Interim Government Response


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