Sexual Violence – Violence Against Women and Girls
Some Facts and Figures
Studies show that data collection concerning the topic of sexual violence is problematic. The topic remains taboo in our society and for victims it is often associated with shame, fear and deep psychological damage. Subsequently, research interviews are difficult to obtain and those that are obtained tend to yield glossed-over recollections of sexual violence experiences. An additional hindrance is the high estimated number of unreported cases. Due to the aforementioned reasons, offences connected to sexual violence are not reported. In general it is possible to ascertain that incidents of violence are relatively seldom reported. Although the overall rate of reporting incidents of violence has increased in the past years, reports of sexual violence have slightly decreased.
It is assumed that many victims do not seek help at victim’s counselling centers, women’s shelters or other such institutions and are therefore not included in statistics.
Dark figures studies in which the target demographic (probable victims and offenders) are questioned directly rather than using police, court and victim counselling statistical material, hardly exist. From our point of view there is a great need for research in this field, precisely because the collection of official, statistical data is so problematic. (Should our evaluation here be incorrect, we would of course be happy to hear about any new research and findings in this area).
Nevertheless some established (and partly alarming) facts about sexual violence:
- Violence against girls and women is a violation of human rights.
- Violence against girls and women is a serious obstacle to overcoming inequality between young girls and boys as well as between women and men in society.
- Violence against girls and women impairs freedom, security and democracy in Europe.
- According to a study (2003, representative sample) 2 in 5 or 39.4% of women in Switzerland will be the victim of physical or sexual violence at least once in the course of adulthood.
- Three in five women (76.8%) have experienced physical violence and controlling behavior by someone they have a close relationship to at least once in their adult lives.
- 5.6% of all women have been raped at least once.
- 6.8% of all women have experienced an attempted rape.
- 43.6% have suffered from physical violence and threats at least once.
- The estimated public costs (federal, cantonal and regional) resulting from violence against women has been calculated by a study by Godenzi/Yodanis (1998) and stands at roughly 400 million CHF per year.
Sexual violence is often domestic violence:
- Violence against women is committed predominantly by the victim’s partner, at home.
- Domestic violence represents one of the most common and most hidden forms of violence against women.
- Domestic violence occurs in all socio-cultural settings and structures and among all age-groups.
- 48.12% of women have experienced physical violence or controlling behavior by their current partner and 66% have experienced physical violence or controlling behavior by a previous partner.
- Domestic violence leaves clear and direct physical as well as psychological and psychosomatic scars. The greater the violence suffered on the part of the patient in question, the greater the prevalence of augmented health complications identifiable.
- Nearly two thirds of women (65.3%) who are strongly affected by domestic violence suffer from physical injuries as well as psychological/psychosomatic problems as a result of the violence.
Homicides linked with violence against women and children:
- On average each year 25 women over the age of 14 are killed due to domestic violence – that’s 2 women per month(!)
- From 2000-2004 a total of 91 children and youth were victims of homicide (37) or attempted homicide (54). 71% were cases of domestic violence.
Child and juvenile victims of sexual violence:
- In 84.8 % of cases the offender is someone the victim knows.
- In 54.5% of cases the offender is actually a family member of the victim.
- In 2007 1347 adults were convicted of misdemeanors and indictable offences on charges of sexual offences against children. Of those convicted on the charges, 98.3% were men and 1.7% women.
- In 2007 24,978 consultations in conjunction with sexual offences against children were conducted.
- Today youth are less likely to be the victims of sexual violence in their own homes. However, they are more likely to be the victims of sexual offences in other homes (e.g. in the home of the offender) and in scholastic settings.
Juvenile offenders of sexual violence:
- Youth offenders of violence are often victims of violence themselves.
- Boys act violently more often than girls and this discrepancy has increased in the past years. These facts stand in contradiction to the mass media coverage that presents a supposed growth in violent acts committed by girls
- Sexual violence is a special form of violence:
--> Boys are at a distinctly higher risk than girls of becoming victims of violence, except in the case of sexual violence.
--> Sexual offences committed by two or more offenders are becoming more common, whereas the overall number of group crimes has decreased(!)
The development of violence among youth:
- The number of charges of juvenile violence have risen in past years, due to increased levels of educational initiatives. This most likely accounts for the increase in violent offences found in crime statics.
- However, the above does not apply to sexual offences. In the case of sexual offences, an actual increase in cases is presumed.
In the 1980s it became known that the majority of offenders in cases of violence against women are the victim’s partner or someone the victim knows. Subsequently, in the 1990s, the demand for increased research, measures and initiatives surrounding the legal situation and prevention ensued. This lead to a paradigm shift: violence against women is no longer regarded as a private problem. This, in turn, means that government must take responsibility in the fight against sexual violence. Legislation and preventative measures are important steps in this direction. Some examples are initiatives such as intervention centers for domestic violence, women’s shelters, collaboration with police e.g. „Halt Gewalt“ and changes in legislation that no longer allow sexual violence to be treated as a trivial offence with impunity. Nevertheless, sexual violence against women and girls continues to be a taboo topic. Many women and girls bear physical and psychological wounds as victims of sexual violence.
According to federal crime statistics from 2000 the number of cases of sexual offence charges - of which 95% of victims are women - have continued to grow. It is not known whether the actual number of sexual offences has in fact increased, or if victims of sexual offences are becoming more prepared to press charges.
Nevertheless: only 1 out of every 5 women has never experienced violence by someone close to her (partner, ex-partner, relative).
Julia Büchele, February 2010
Eidgenössisches Departement des Innern EDI: Informationsblatt: Zahlen zur häuslichen Gewalt. 6.11.2007
Eidgenössisches Departement des Innern EDI: Informationsblatt: Gewalt gegen Frauen. 10.12.2007
Bundesamt für Statistik, Neuchâtel 2010 www.bfs.admin.ch
Ribeaud, Denis und Eisner, Manuel. Zentrale Ergebnisse der Studie. Entwicklung von Gewalterfahrungen Jungendlicher im Kanton Zürich. Hintergrundinformationen. Pädagogisches Institut Zürich. Dezember 2007