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Sexual violence under reported

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Just over one in four people who have been the subject of some form of sexual victimisation report the matter to the police, a Government commissioned survey published today has revealed.

A fifth of almost 2,000 people aged 16 to 64 who were interviewed as part of the survey have been the subject of some form of sexual harassment or victimisation or serious sexual assault in their lifetime but only 27% chose to report the matter to police.

The findings of report: Experience of Sexual Violence and Abuse: Findings from the 2008/09 Northern Ireland Crime Survey will be used by the Northern Ireland Office and the Department of Health and Social Services to shape future victims services.

It is part of the overall five-year regional strategy for tackling sexual violence and abuse launched by Ministers Paul Goggins and Michael McGimpsey last year.

Paul Goggins said: “Sexual violence and abuse are crimes which many individuals find very difficult to talk about – but that is changing.

“The number of people who participated in the survey suggests that we are beginning to break down barriers and make positive progress in supporting people to come forward.

“The criminal justice system remains committed to working hard to respond to victims needs. New dedicated police units have already been put in place with specialist staff trained to respond sensitively to the needs and concerns of victims of sexual violence and abuse.

“The results of this report will help shape the services we can offer the victims of sexual abuse.”

Health Minister Michael McGimpsey said “Sexual violence and abuse can have a devastating impact on victims and their families.

“We intend to ensure that Government remains fully committed to addressing the needs of all victims of sexual violence and abuse through full and effective implementation of the ‘Tackling Sexual Violence and Abuse’ Strategy.

“There are a number of initiatives currently under development including a review of counselling services to increase capacity and the establishment of a new specialist Sexual Assault Referral Centre at Antrim Area Hospital.

“A major public information campaign was launched in November this year to help raise awareness of this issue amongst the general public.”

The survey findings highlight that 33% of victims of serious sexual assault and 29% of victims of sexual victimisation were aged 15 years or under when these incidents (first) occurred.

Responding to these statistics, Mr McGimpsey said: “I am most concerned about the number ofpeople who have reported being sexually abused as a child.

“I haveinvested significantly in the establishment of stronger mechanisms for the reporting of concerns about children through the Gateway Teams andintroduced a new frontline single point of contact within each of the HSC Trusts to deal with initial child protection queries and referrals.”

Note to Editors

This is the second publication to be drawn from NICS 2008/09, a representative, continuous, personal interview survey of the experiences and perceptions of crime adults living in private households throughout Northern Ireland.

Arising out of the joint DHSSPS / NIO ‘Tackling Sexual Violence and Abuse’ Action Plan 2008 – 2009, the main aims of this suite of questions were to:

  • “measure the lifetime and recent prevalence of sexual harassment, stalking, sexual victimisation and very serious sexual assault, including rape;
  • gather basic details on the characteristics of victims and perpetrators, including whether they were under the influence of alcohol or drugs; and
  • establish the extent to which victims were physically or mentally affected and whether they told anyone else about the incidents.”

The bulletin is available in PDF format only from either the NIO web-site or Statistics and Research Branch, Massey House, Stormont Estate, Belfast BT4 3SX (Telephone: 9052 7157; Email:

The Strategy ‘Tackling Sexual Violence and Abuse, A Regional Strategy 2008-2013’ was launched in June 2008.  The 5 year Strategy sets out what the Government intends to do to tackle the issue of sexual violence and abuse across Northern Ireland.  The regional strategy is available from either the  NIO website or the Department of Health website.

Further information is available to download from the NIO website

Press queries about this publication should be directed to the NIO Press Office on telephone number 028 9052 0700.