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Crime and victims

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 offence statistics

Police recorded 57,542 sexual offences in England and Wales in the year ending March 2007. This represented a 7% drop over 2005-06 figures. (Source: Crime in England and Wales 2006-07).

Reporting a sexual offence and getting support

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

1. Report it

There are a number of ways you can report a crime. In an emergency, dial 999. Police and ambulance workers will deal with you confidentially and sympathetically.

You can also contact your local police force directly or, if there's one in your area, call a sexual assault referral centre for help - the workers there can help guide you through the entire process.

2. Get support

To help you through this difficult time help and emotional support  is available.

Your local Rape Crisis centre (new window) offers counselling, advice and support.

Victim Support (new window) on 0845 30 30 900, offers support and practical help. 

The Survivors Trust (new window) is an umbrella group that provides links to over 70 member organisations working with victims of sexual crime, including victims of childhood abuse. Contact them on:  01788 550554

3. Get information on going to court

The Victims' Virtual Walkthrough (new window) 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 (new window) .


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:

An action plan for preventing sexual violence and abuse

We know that sexual violence and abuse are some of the most damaging crimes in our society and that the standard of care and support a victim receives after an attack can be vital to their long-term recovery. We hope that by improving the standard of care and support available to victims of sexual violence and abuse, more people will have the confidence to come forward knowing that they will be dealt will professionally and with understanding. 

The cross-government action plan on sexual violence and abuse, developed in close consultation with our stakeholders and delivery agencies, sets out how we plan to deliver key objectives on sexual violence and abuse:

  • maximising prevention of sexual violence and abuse
  • increasing access to support and health services for victims of sexual violence and abuse
  • improving the criminal justice response to sexual violence and abuse


Strengthening protection for adults and children

The Sexual Offences Act 2003, came into force in May 2004.  Read the guide to the Sexual Offences Act.  The Act:

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

Studies show an ongoing decline in the conviction rate for reported rape cases. In 2007, it was estimated that fewer than 6% of all rape cases result in conviction 

We agree that this is unacceptable, and we are working to change it by:

  • improving support services for victims – by expanding the network of sexual assault referral centres and launching a Victim Support telephone helpline (new window) 0845 30 30 900
  • improving training for forensic medical examiners and police officers
  • providing funded independent sexual violence advisors (ISVAs) throughout England and Wales to offer advice and guidance to victims
  • 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

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

There are currently 20 centres around the country providing a one-stop locations where victims can access medical care, counselling and forensic examination facilities, while assisting the police with their investigation, and receiving help for their emotional and physical trauma.

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


Reviewing how we protect against child sex offenders

We published the report into the management of sex offenders - Review of the protection of children from sex offenders - in 2007.

The Home Secretary had commissioned the review in direct response to public concerns about how sex offenders are housed in the community.

The report lists 20 actions that should be taken to strengthen laws protecting young people from sexual predators, including:

  • piloting a new process allowing parents and guardians to request details of possible sex offenders
  • requiring police and probation services to consider in each case whether a child sex offenders' conviction should be disclosed to protect children
  • developing the use of drug treatment to reduce sexual drive in offenders
  • promoting community awareness campaigns to educate parents about ways to protect their children from sexual predators

Find out more about the recommendations outlined in the report and what we're doing to protect children from sex offenders.


Getting the consent message across

We recently ran an advertising campaign warning men that they could go to jail for rape if they have sex without consent.

The campaign followed the Sexual Offences Act 2003 which established – for the first time – a clear definition of consent. Put simply, rape and other sexual assaults are sexual acts carried out without the consent of one of the people involved. Consent means making an active decision to say yes, an assumption of consent is not enough.

Find out more about the consent campaign and take a look at some of the advertising material.

Home Office websites