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Majority of women who experience sexual assault know their attacker

New research published today also identifies age and alcohol consumption as factors in assaults.

A NEW STUDY has found that three-quarters of women who experience sexual assault are familiar with their attacker.

As part of the research the relationship between the victim of assault and the perpetrator was examined.

Of those questioned almost 75% had met their perpetrators before the assault while almost half said the action was carried out by a current or former boyfriend, family member or someone they considered a friend.

The data used in the study was taken from the women who attended the Specialised Centre for Victim of Sexual Assault (SCVA) in Copenhagen. It looked at 2541 cases between March 2001 and December 2010.

Alcohol and age

The study also identified alcohol consumption and age as factors to consider in preventing assaults.

It was found that two-thirds of women assaulted were in the age range 15- 24. Of those questioned 40% had consumed more than five units of alcohol prior to their assault.

For women assaulted after consuming alcohol, the attack was most often perpetrated by someone they had met in the 24 hours leading up to the incident.

The research, has argued that these factors should be included when considering strategies for prevention.


The study is published today in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

Co-author of the study Dr Mie-Louise Larsen is hoping that the findings will give a clearer perspective on attacks:

Our results challenge the typical stereotype of a violent rape attack by a stranger, which is important in creating an environment where women are not reluctant to seek help after a sexual assault.

“We need to raise awareness of the fact that most sexual assaults are perpetrated by someone known to the woman, often in familiar surroundings. Many victims will not sustain a physical or anogenital injury.”

“In order to change the general attitudes towards sexual assault, this information should not only target young people, but also the police, healthcare professionals and the general public.”

Read: Sexual assault patients could have more time to keep biological evidence

Also: Dublin street harassment of women tackled on Connected – here’s the reaction

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