“Every woman has a story of fear, harassment or abuse – as women, we are connected through anger and sadness, and the persistent considerations and decisions we have to make every day to not feel in danger or threatened.”
Those are the words of Women’s Aid policy manager Sophie Francis-Cansfield today (3 September) on the six month anniversary of Sarah Everard’s disappearance.
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The 33-year-old South Londoner was snatched from the street in March as she made her way home following an evening at a friend's house.
She was raped and murdered, her burned body found stowed inside a bag in the Kent countryside a week later.
Sarah's death sparked an outpouring of grief across the country, a horror story that struck a guttural chord with every woman who knows too well the feeling of keys clutched tightly in hand and furtive glances over the shoulder while hurrying towards home.
But it's not just the anonymous man on the street that women need fear.
Whether it’s stalking or harassment, sexual assault at the hands of a stranger or abuse from a supposed loved one, the message was loud and it was clear after Sarah’s death – end violence against women and girls everywhere, now.
“It is time to stop the endless tirade of male violence against all women,” said Ms Francis-Cansfield.
“It is also essential that we bring an end to victim blaming. It is not the responsibility of women to stop violence against them or to take steps to improve their safety.
“We need a world free of male violence against women and girls, and to achieve this, we must challenge misogyny, inequality and intersecting forms of oppression, wherever we see it.
“We will continue to hold the Government and society to account for not ending the violence and abuse that women face.”
That violence and abuse is all around, as data from the Home Office and Office for National Statistics analysed by NationalWorld lays bare.
Below are nine charts that paint a stark picture of the violence and abuse women face today.
Numbers tell a story - the scale of rape and sexual assaults against women
The statistics on rape are staggering.
That was 14 times more than the number involving male victims – 2,577.
The figures exclude gang rapes involving ‘multiple undefined offenders’ – of which there were 1,180 against females – as the victims’ age is not specified.
Only a tiny fraction of victims will see their attacker charged – just 5.1% of the 55,373 rape cases wrapped up in 2020 ended in a charge.
NationalWorld has also previously exposed how rapists of male victims appear to face tougher penalties than rapists of females.
Every year the ONS publishes its Crime Survey for England and Wales, which asks tens of thousands of participants about their experiences.
It is thought the survey is a truer reflection of crime than police data for some offences, as many people may not report their ordeals to the authorities.
Between April 2017 and March 2020, 3.2% of women aged 16 to 74 said they were a victim of either an actual or an attempted sexual assault. That compared to 0.9% of men – meaning women were 3.7 times more likely to be a victim.
But there were enormous differences in age groups, with 12.9% of females aged 16 to 19 – more than one in eight – experiencing an assault versus 2.9% of males of the same age.
That means adults aged under 20 were 4.4 times more likely to be assaulted if they were female.
The danger lurking behind closed doors
Wayne Couzens was a stranger to Sarah Everard before he raped her and stubbed out her life.
That puts his actions in the minority for sexual violence – most victims know their assailant.
Women are also often not safe in their own homes – a fact that was thrown into sharp relief by the pandemic, with an increase in domestic abuse reports during lockdown.
In May 2020, Home Office data shows domestic abuse offences recorded by police were up by 10.9%.
Even before Covid, domestic abuse cases were piled high in courts and police stations across the country.
Between April 2019 and March 2020, 15.2% of all crimes recorded by police – that’s everything from theft to assault to vandalism – were domestic abuse related. That’s a staggering 759,000 abuse offences.
When it comes to cases taken to court by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), 13.6% were domestic abuse related – 61,169 cases in total.
Of these, 82.3% involved female victims (where the sex was recorded) and 91.8% involved male defendants.
Returning to the Crime Survey for England and Wales, in 2019-20 almost a quarter of women aged 16 to 74 (23.8%) said they had experienced domestic abuse from a partner since their 16th birthday compared to 10.5% of men.
And in just the last year alone, 5.6% of women aged 16 to 74 and 6.2% of those aged 16 to 59 said they experienced partner abuse. That is compared to 2.4% and 2.8% of men respectively.
Younger people of either sex are more likely to have experienced partner abuse.
Prevalence rises to a whopping 14% among women aged 16 to 19 – 8.7 percentage points higher than among males, where the rate was 5.3%.
Domestic abuse isn’t always physical. But sometimes it kills.
Between 2016-17 and 2018-19, there were 274 women killed through domestic abuse in England and Wales.
Their deaths made up 23.3% of all homicides (murders and manslaughters) during that time.
That counts just homicide victims aged 16 or over, and where a killer or suspected killer was identified, and excludes the 85 adult victims of Hillsborough, whose manslaughters were recorded in 2016-17.
So who is doing the killing?
Whether the victim is male or female, most of the time the answer is: a man.
More than four out of five female domestic homicide victims (218 of them) were killed by current or former partners. All but four of those 218 were killed by men.
Domestic homicides of men follow a different pattern. Of the 83 male victims, most of them (45) were killed by other family members rather than partners.
Most men killed in domestic homicides died at the hands of other males.
The most common suspects were non-immediate family members – perhaps aunts and uncles, cousins or in-laws besides parents, children or siblings.
However, of the 44 men killed by current or former partners, most were killed by female suspects.
You can explore the circumstances of all 357 domestic homicides in the chart below. All bubbles are sized by the number of victims.
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