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99.3% of Surveyed Women and Girls Report Experiencing Sexual Violence

This 2021 survey from the UK found that an estimated 99.3% of female respondents reported being repeatedly subjected to sexual violence including assaults, harassment, and rape.


A survey of women and girls in the UK published in April 2021 revealed the shocking reality of violence in everyday life. One of the main goals of the survey was to determine the prevalence of physical, sexual, and online-based violence women experience. This was both before and after they turned 18 years old.

Currently, the most referred to number comes from the UK government’s Office for National Statistics, which estimates one in five women have experienced some form of sexual violence since the age of 16.

That projection is conservative in comparison to this more recent report which shares that 99.3% of women who responded to the survey, over 22,400 people in total, have been repeatedly subjected to sexual violence, including assaults, harassment, and rape, essentially making violence a “universal experience” for the population of women and girls.

Related: How Porn Can Promote Sexual Violence

The report published other shocking findings. Here are a few of them:

  • Half of the survey respondents (51%) reported having woken up to their male partner sexually assaulting them. That means over 11,200 women had this experience out of everyone who responded to the survey.
  • Image-based sexual abuse is a growing issue. 17% of participants reported having nude photos or videos taken and shared without their consent.
  • 16% reported being forced or coerced to perform sex acts someone saw in porn.

This survey covers a range of different types of violence, and as a result, it has shined a light on the issue of sexual entitlement.

In an age where young people are getting much of their sexual knowledge from porn, which is often quite violent and often leaves out consent conversations, this report is a brutally honest look at the state of relationships. Clearly, with so many women and girls experiencing sexual violence, this is more than just an isolated issue. It’s a societal one.

The truth about sexual violence

Historically, surveying and studying violence has been a challenge. Researchers spend a lot of time estimating the number everyone wants to know: how many people are affected?

Still, isn’t it too many if just one person experiences physical or sexual violence? And if that number is much higher, and the research suggests this is the case, then this warrants a larger conversation about gender-based violence and its real-life effects. That is why this new survey is both surprising and helpful. It concludes that more women experience the effects than previously believed.

The report was published in April 2021 by an organization called VictimFocus. The authors asked questions about a variety of different forms of violence, including physical assault and abuse, sexual assault and rape, sexual harassment, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, forced pregnancies and terminations, sex trafficking, rape threats, death threats, and digital sex crimes such as being sent unsolicited images of nudity and being forced to watch porn or view child abuse material.

Related: Homepages of 3 Popular Porn Sites Heavily Feature Sexual Violence, Study Finds

Ultimately, 22,419 women in the UK responded to the online survey about their experiences of violence. A common criticism of survey data is that participants can say whatever they want. There’s a possibility that those affected by violence were more motivated to participate. This potential bias could lead to overestimating prevalence. These are valid points; however, such a large and diverse sample size can help balance out some of those concerns.

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Previous prevalence figures for violence, like the 1 in 5, suffer from other issues. This number is a projection based on police reports, and we know that sexual violence is a notoriously underreported crime. According to the US Department of Justice, out of 1,000 incidents of sexual assault, only 310 are reported to the police.Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, National Crime Victimization Survey, 2015-2019 (2020). Retrieved from  Even from the VictimFocus survey, 91% of respondents who were over 18 at the time of an incident of sexual violence said they did not report the offense to the police.

The difficulty lies in quantifying how many people have experienced abuse or violence. What we can say for sure is that sexual violence affects more people than it should. This leads us to wonder, why?

Sexual entitlement and assault

The VictimFocus report began new conversations about sexual consent and entitlement in the UK.

The author of the report, Dr. Jessica Taylor, said she heard from both men and women about the finding that 51% of respondents have woken up to their male partner performing sex acts on them. She said some people were critical that this was not an offense, while others were more reflective, even admitting that they had done so before but had not considered their behavior an issue. Women assumed it was a part of a normal, long-term relationship.

This debate shines a light on an area of consent less considered. In the UK, sexual touching while someone is asleep is an offense due to lack of consent.

“It’s a sense of entitlement,” Dr. Taylor said. “They’re in a relationship with you. You’re asleep. They want it. So they take it.”

Related: Does Porn Normalize Sexual Violence in Teen Relationships?

We know consent seems like a challenge to navigate. One study of young people in Ireland revealed that 58% needed help understanding the term, how it could be manifested (verbally or otherwise), and its importance in relationships. This is not exactly good news, but we also are not surprised.

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Consider that it’s incredibly common for adolescents to receive much of their information about sex from porn. Consent and respect for an intimate partner are two key storylines that are missing in mainstream porn. So if teens are turning to porn for their sex education and they don’t find any positive examples of how to navigate consent, it’s not a surprise that young people are unsure how to ask for consent and regularly check in with their partner.

It’s also not surprising that they may pressure their partner into performing acts they saw in a porn video.

According to Dr. Taylor’s report, this has happened to 16% of respondents. Most people probably don’t consider themselves sexually entitled or selfish in their intimate encounters. Still, these attitudes exist in porn and, if regularly consumed, can alter the brain and lower a person’s values and standards.

Related: 5 Studies that Show How Often Porn Normalizes Violence Against Women

Porn isn’t the sole cause, though it isn’t helping

Porn serves as a poor excuse for sex and relationship education. This is especially true when consent and valuing partners are missing from the narrative. It is all about taking what you want sexually when, in reality, relationships are about giving and receiving together.

To be clear, porn is not solely responsible for all the violence women and girls experience. However, if the vast majority are subjected to some form of violence, we must start somewhere.

We must ask ourselves, is porn helping or hindering our relationships? Is it helping or hindering the issue of gender-based sexual violence? The research says the latter.

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