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Sexual offences

Sexual offences

Sexual crime and the fear of sexual crime has a profound and damaging effect on individuals and communities. We're determined to reduce this kind of crime.

Sexual offences statistics

In the year ending March 2005, the total number of sexual offences recorded by police in England and Wales was 60,900 – a 17% rise over the previous year (Source: Crime in England and Wales 2004/2005).

Although we can’t be certain whether this spike is due to an increase in offences, we are encouraged to see more victims than ever coming forward and reporting these crimes to the police.

Facts & figures

  • as many as 80% of rapes and sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows (Source: St Mary’s Historic Database)
  • stranger assaults are still more likely to be reported than those committed by an acquaintance, partner or family member (Source: Crime in England and Wales 2004/2005)
  • 4% of sexual offences reported involved gross indecency with a child (Source: Crime in England and Wales 2004/2005)


What we’re doing about sexual offences

We are committed to tackling sexual offences and providing the best support possible for victims. Here’s an overview of our initiatives.

Strengthening protection for adults and children

Recent reform introduced in May 2004 has:

Clarified the law

  • ‘Consent’ now has a legal definition. This makes it easier for juries to make fair and balanced decisions on the question of consent and sends a clear signal to men that they can’t make assumptions.
  • The meaning of rape has been expanded to include oral penetration.
  • Children under 13 can now never legally consent to sexual activity.

Created new offences

  • To help protect adults against ‘date rape’ drugs.
  • Protecting children from exposure to indecent text messages, and online and offline ‘grooming’ (communication with a child with an intention to meet and commit a sex offence).

Strengthened sentences

  • For exploitation through child prostitution and pornography, trafficking involving prostitution, and indecent exposure.

Stopped discrimination

  • All sexual offences now apply equally to males and females of any sexual orientation.
  • Improved protection from known sex offenders.
  • They’ll be tracked more closely and those convicted of a sex offence overseas must register when they come to the UK.

Improved protection for people with mental disorders

  • New offences such as ‘breach of a relationship of care’ have been created to help protect some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

Supporting victims and addressing the justice gap

Our figures show an ongoing decline in the conviction rate for reported rape cases, reaching an all-time low of 5.6% in 2002 (Source: A gap or a chasm? Attrition in reported rape cases). We are committed to addressing this by:

  • improving support services for victims – by expanding the network of sexual assault referral centres and launching a Victim Support telephone helpline 0845 30 30 900
  • improving training – for forensic medical examiners and police officers
  • helping vulnerable victims – by allowing them to give evidence from behind a screen or on video
  • improving payments – made by the criminal injuries compensation scheme to victims
  • providing specialist rape prosecutors – to ensure more perpetrators are found guilty in court
  • consulting victims – about release plans for offenders in serious cases
  • reviewing cold cases – of rape and serious sexual assault

Sexual Assault Referral Centres

Referral centres are another integral part of our strategy to support victims of sexual crime.

There are currently 13 operational centres providing a one-stop location where victims can access medical care, counselling and forensic examination facilities, while assisting the police with their investigation.

See the sexual assault referral centre page for more information or to find a centre near you.

Reporting a sexual offence and getting support

If you have been the victim of a sexual offence you can:

Report it

There are a number of ways you can report a crime.  You can also contact your local police force  or sexual assault referral centre directly

Get support

To help you through this difficult time help and emotional support is available - contact your local Rape Crisis centre for counselling advice and support, or Victim Support on 0845 30 30 900, for support and practical help

Get information on going to court

The Victims' Virtual Walkthrough on the Criminal Justice Online website is an interactive guide to each step in the justice process, from reporting a crime to going to court.

The publication, 'From Report to Court: A handbook for adult survivors of sexual violence', tells you exactly what will happen when you report a sexual offence and go to court. You can view and order a copy of the guide from the Rights of Women website.

Get long-term help

The Survivors Trust is an umbrella group that provides links to over 70 member organisations working with victims of sexual crime, including victims of childhood abuse. 

Contact the Survivors Trust on:  01788 551150