For Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week, our campaign stresses not only that sexual abuse is not ok, but also that sexual abuse is not ‘normal’.
There has been a worrying ‘normalisation of abuse’ that can prevent victims or witnesses from reporting crimes to police or support services, and reiterates that those who experience such abuse are never at fault.
This is highlighted by low reporting numbers seen across the UK.
Statistics from the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) for the years ending March 2017 and March 2020 combined showed that fewer than one in six victims (16%) had reported their sexual assault to the police.
The most common reasons given by those that told someone about the abuse, but did not report it to the police, were: embarrassment (40%), thinking the police could not help (38%) and thinking it would be humiliating (34%).
Not only do the majority of victims not report their abuse to the police, but many victims also choose not to report their abuse to friends, family or support services, in part because they perceive the actions of the abuser to be ‘normal’ – a result of generations of failure to tackle deep-rooted problems, including misogyny and ineffective responses to reported abuses.
The West Midlands Victims’ Commissioner said, “So many victims of abuse tell me about the worries they have about talking to someone. That’s why we’re doing everything in our power to remove those stigmas and challenge those in positions of influence to change this victim-blaming culture. It has led to victims of abuse, and even witnesses to crimes, to thinking that certain behaviours are normal. These abuses are not normal, they’re not ok, and it is never the victims’ fault.”