European & International News

EU study highlights prevalence of sexual violence against women in EU

[Brussels, 23 November 2012] Bulgarian women victims of sexual assault are between 100 000 and 120 000, or between 10 and 18 % of women over 18. Only 4% of them reported the abuse; Research by the Scottish government found that in Scotland, 7 out of 10 women will be virtually guaranteed to be asked about their sexual history or character in the course of a rape or attempted rape trial; In Germany, official statistics in 2009 shows there were 7.314 reported cases of rapes, 1255 prosecutions and 928 convictions. Academic research found that only 5% of women victims eport the rape to the police; In France, 205 women are raped every day, only 2% of perpetrators are condemned, only 1 victim out of 10 will report the assault and 74% of rapes are committed by someone known by the victim.

These are some examples of the data gathered in the mapping study on sexual violence in the EU, recently published on the website of the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE). The study was carried out in 2011 by the the European Women’s Lobby with the input of the collective experience of the EWL Observatory experts in all Member States and accession countries for the EIGE. It focused on some forms of sexual violence against women – rape, marital rape, sexual abuse/assault, sexual coercion and sexual harassment outside the workplace – and covered resources used by the Member States and Croatia between 2007 and 2010.

The study highlights the gaps and needs for changing the practices, the stereotypes, and for improving the prevention and protection measures on sexual violence against women. While male violence against women remains invisible and underestimated, this is particularly true for sexual violence.

The study reveals that it is still impossible to have an overview of various sexual offences committed against women in the EU: the criminal statistics on sexual violence are generally not separated according to the type of sexual violence, and the majority of data is not disaggregated by sex. Academic research and national surveys, when they exist, are complementing the official data by presenting the “dark numbers” of sexual violence. Results show the huge prevalence of sexual violence and the very low reporting rate: only 4 to 10% of sexual violence acts are reported to the police.

The traumatic nature of sexual violence, including rape, requires a particularly sensitive response by trained and specialised staff. Victims of this type of violence need immediate medical care and trauma support combined with immediate forensic examinations to collect the evidence needed for prosecution. However, the lack of resources is still a common issue in the EU. 13 EU countries have NO specialist sexual violence NGOs, even though there may be NGOs working on it in conjunction with other forms of VAW. There are wide variations between the other countries which have specialist sexual violence NGOs, with the majority having only one or two. Victims too often lack of resource material available.

The mapping study also reveals the lack of training for professionals and specialists, but again with huge differences between countries. The training courses are mostly offered for police forces and, in some countries, for health professionals and prosecutors and judges.

The study presents a set of recommendations for the EU and Member States and is accompanied by a database including reliable and valuable information on sexual violence in the EU and Croatia, including European and international resources; research and studies; material for professionals and for victims of sexual violence.

The EWL is hoping this study will be a new step towards necessary measures to provide support and protection to women victims and survivors, improving awareness and changing mentalities on sexual violence. Together with the experts of the EWL Observatory on violence against women, the EWL will continue to highlight rape as a form of violence against women by publishing an EU Barometer on rape in 2013.

More information on the study on sexual violence against women in the EU can be found on the EIGE website.

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EWL event "Progress towards a Europe free from all forms of male violence" to mark the 10th aniversary of the Istanbul Convention, 12 May 2021.

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