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Working to end sexual violence

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Statistics and Key Information

Statistics and Key Information

Violence against women: prevalence

Global estimates published by the World Health Organisation in 2017 indicate that about 1 in 3 (35%) of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime.

Globally, as many as 38% of murders of women are committed by a male intimate partner.

42% of women who experience intimate partner violence report an injury as a consequence of this violence [Source: WHO Factsheet on violence against women (2017)


A study published by the End Violence Against Women Coalition in 2018 found that:

  • A third (33%) of people in Britain think it isn’t usually rape if a woman is pressured into having sex but there is no physical violence
  • A third of men think if a woman has flirted on a date it generally wouldn’t be rape, even if she hasn’t consented to sex (21% of women believe this). Almost a quarter (24%) don’t think that, in most cases, sex without consent in long-term relationships is rape (despite laws against rape in marriage being in place since 1991)
  • Over 65s have most troubling attitudes to rape, while younger people have opinions that are more closely aligned to the law
  • Some people (11%) believe the more sexual partners a woman has, the less harm they experience from rape.
  • ‘Stealthing’: 40% think it is never or usually not rape to remove a condom without a partner’s consent
  • 60% of people think that free counselling services are available to victims of rape.
  • Around one in 10 are unsure or think it’s usually not rape to have sex with a woman who is asleep or too drunk to consent

Scottish Social Attitudes Survey (2019): Attitudes to violence against women in Scotland
Some people believe that in certain situations woman are at least partly to blame if they are raped. 3 in 10 people thought that a woman is at least partly to blame for being raped if she is either very drunk, or wearing revealing clothing. The other 7 in 10 said that she is ‘not at all to blame’.

Older people (65+) were much more likely than those aged 18-64 to think that the woman was at least partly to blame in these instances: 53% versus 24% where a woman was wearing revealing clothing, and 52% versus 26% where a woman was very drunk.

The proportion of people who agreed that ‘women often lie about being raped’ has decreased from 23% (in the 2014 survey) to 8% of people.

However, a significant minority (28%, down from 37% in the 2014 survey) of people still agree that ‘rape results from men being unable to control their need for sex’.

The Havens “Wake Up To Rape” Report (2010)

This report revealed widespread attitudes blaming women for rape - of over 1000 people interviewed more than half held victims responsible in some circumstances e.g. 28% of these people included “provocative” dress as an instance where women to some extent responsible.

You can see a summary of findings from this report at:

Legal context and definition

Under the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009 [implemented December 2010] rape is defined as:
"penetration of the vagina, anus or mouth by the penis without consent.”

However, there are many forms of sexual assault and abuse which do not fit with the legal definition of rape. These can be just as distressing and have just as much of an impact.
You can read an Outline of the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009 here.

Criminal justice

[Source: Scottish Government Recorded crime in Scotland, 2019-20]

Sexual crimes

Sexual crimes decreased by 1% from 13,547 to 13,364. This is the first year since 2008-09 that sexual crimes haven’t increased, though these crimes remain at the second highest level seen since 1971, the first year for which comparable groups are available.

Sexual crimes account for 5% of all recorded crimes in Scotland

Rape & attempted rape

Rape & attempted rape accounted for 18% of Sexual crimes in 2019-20. Similar to sexual assault, after an upward trend from 2010-11 to 2018-19, there was a 3% decrease in Rape & attempted rape this year, from 2,426 in 2018-19 to 2,343 in 2019-20.

In 2019-20 there were 2,213 rapes recorded by the police: a 3% decrease on the previous year.
In the same time period, there were 130 attempted rapes recorded: a 2% decrease on the previous year.

38.84% of the abuse experienced by survivors in touch with Rape Crisis Centres in Scotland in 2019-20 was rape; 16.83% was child sexual abuse, and 22% was sexual assault [Source: Rape Crisis Scotland Annual Report 2019-20]

Sexual abuse occurs more often in the survivor’s home than in any other location (just over 37%) [Source: Rape Crisis Scotland Annual Report for 2019-20]

Where this was known, only just over half of survivors (50.35%) seeking support from rape crisis centres in 2019-20 in Scotland had reported to the police. [Source: Rape Crisis Scotland Annual Report for 2019-20 - publication imminent]

Sexual assault

Sexual assault accounted for 37% of Sexual crimes in Scotland in 2019-20. Until this year this category had been on an upward trend since 2011-12, having increased by 76% between then and 2018-19. However, this year Sexual assaults fell by 4%, from 5,123 in 2018-19 to 4,936 in 2019-20.

Other sexual crimes

Other sexual crimes includes crimes such as Communicating indecently; Taking, possessing and distributing indecent photos of children; Sexual exposure, Public indecency and Causing to view sexual images or activity. Since 2017-18 it has also included Disclosing or threatening to disclose an intimate image. This category has been on an upward trend since 2010-11, having increased by 238% within that time, including a 4% increase from 5,763 in 2018-19 to 5,984 in 2019-20. It accounts for 45% of Sexual crimes.

A research project into Other sexual crimes suggested that cyber enabled Other sexual crimes (i.e. where the internet has been used as a means to commit the crime) contributed around half to the total growth in all recorded Sexual crimes between 2013-14 and 2016-17.

Figures released by the Scottish Government in May 2021 revealed that almost a quarter of trials for rape or attempted rape result in a Not Proven verdict.

Only 43% of rape and attempted rape trials result in a conviction, compared to an 88% overall conviction rate. In 2019-20 there were 2,343 rapes and attempted rapes reported to the police, but only 300 prosecutions and just 130 convictions.

*Please note: the figures in brackets below for 2018/19 were those published in this report last year. These have since been adjusted by the Scottish Government for 2018/19 in this report to reduce the number of prosecutions by 11 and of convictions by 10, meaning the conviction figure for 2018/19 given here is lower than that previously in the public domain.

Rape & attempted rape
















313 (324)*






142 (152)*


% of cases prosecuted resulting in conviction




45.37% (47%)*


% of cases prosecuted resulting in Not proven






Recorded Crime in Scotland (RC): RC2015-16, RC2016-17, RC2017-18, RC2018-19, RC2019-20
Criminal proceedings in Scotland (CP): CP2015/16, CP2016/17, CP2017/18, CP2018/19, CP2019/20

Note – the figures for recorded crime and prosecutions are not directly comparable as one measures incident and the other accused.
Research suggests
the rate of false allegations is no higher for rape than for other crimes.

Age of victims

Although the specific age of the victim cannot generally be determined from the data supplied by Police Scotland, many of the sexual crime codes used by the police to record crime make it clear when the victim was aged under 18 (for example, Sexual assault of older male child (13-15 years)). By adding up all these crime codes, we know that at least 40% of the 13,364 sexual crimes recorded in 2019-20 by the police related to a victim under the age of 18. This proportion is similar to the previous year. [Source: Recorded Crime in Scotland, 2019-20]

Scottish Crime and Justice Survey (SCJS) 2017-18

Information on sexual crime is collected through a number of additional self-completion sections appended to the main SCJS survey. The self-completion elements of the 2016-17 and 2017-18 surveys included questions on sexual victimisation, stalking and harassment, and partner abuse.
The findings are included in the 2017-18 Main Findings report which revealed that:

  • 3.6% of adults in Scotland have experienced at least one type of serious sexual assault since the age of 16.
  • A higher proportion of women than men reported experiencing at least one type of serious sexual assault (6.2% compared to 0.8%, respectively).
  • Since the age of 16, 1.3% of respondents had experienced more than one type of serious sexual assault.
  • The first (or only) incident occurred between the age of 16 and 20 for more than half of those with experience of serious sexual assault.


There were 871 incidents of stalking recorded by the police in Scotland 2019-20, which is a 33% reduction on the previous year when 1,304 incidents were reported.

There has been a 76% increase in recorded incidents of stalking in Scotland between 2011-12 and 2019-20 [Source: Recorded Crime in Scotland, 2019-20]

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