The Government itself estimates that, in England and Wales alone, 85,000 women per year – equivalent to 233 per day – are raped and well over 400,000 are sexually assaulted.
One in five women in England and Wales has experienced some form of sexual violence since the age of 16. And these figures do not include the vast but harder to quantify numbers of younger women and girls who are subjected to sexual violence each year, month, week and day across the UK. In recent years, high profile cases in Rochdale, Oxfordshire, Rotherham and elsewhere have highlighted the sexual exploitation and abuse of thousands of girls. At the same time, through our frontline work at Rape Crisis we know that still more girls are raped and sexually abused within their own homes, and in other settings where they should feel safe, by adult men, often responsible for their care, who they have trusted and even loved. Yet the majority of these women and girl survivors of sexual violence, whether recent or some time in the past, do not have access to a local specialist Rape Crisis service.
In light of all of this, it is a matter of urgency that the British Government, whoever it comprises, signals its commitment to tackling violence against women and girls in all its forms by ratifying the Istanbul Convention (IC) at its earliest opportunity after the General Election on 7th May. The minimum standards for action in relation to the prevention, protection, prosecution, and provision of specialist services set out in the IC offer a starting point for action and change that has never been more clearly or more desperately needed. For these reasons, Rape Crisis England & Wales is pleased and proud to be a supporter of the #ICchange campaign.