Fifth of Northern Ireland population has suffered sex abuse or violence
A fifth of people in Northern Ireland have experienced sexual violence or abuse, it has been revealed.
The Northern Ireland Crime Survey showed women were twice as likely to have been attacked.
Victimisation, stalking and indecent exposure were among the most common offences, the research for the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) added.
Peter Lockhart, a regional manager at abuse support group Nexus, said: “Sexual crime is about the abuse of power. Where there are people with power and people are vulnerable, they are more likely to be victims of sexual attack.
“More children are abused as they are vulnerable and trust adults, the problem is huge.
“Sometimes victims can't speak out, as young men may get caught up in drugs or alcohol and become very vulnerable.”
The survey was carried out in the financial year 2008/09 and interviewed 3,856 people. It found a fifth of people aged 16-64 have experienced at least one type of sexual violence or abuse. Women (25%) are twice as likely as men (12%) to fall victim.
Sexual victimisation has the highest prevalence rate (13%) ahead of stalking (10%) and serious sexual assault (4%).
The most common offences were indecent exposure or obscene or threatening phone calls or messages.
The most likely people to experience violence and abuse were single adults with children, people living in places plagued by anti-social behaviour, those aged under 25 and people privately renting.
Mr Lockhart added that many people would know their attackers.
“They are not necessarily the stranger in the next street, it can just as easily be a family member or a respected pillar of society,” he said.
Upper Bann DUP MP David Simpson said the worrying figures highlighted how much work still needed to be done.
“These incidents are not just statistics. Rather they are, each of them, a story of violence, misery and intimidation,” he added.
“As a society we have far too lax an attitude towards sexual violence and assault. Sentences have often been derisory, victims have often been made to feel as if they were the guilty party.
“This is simply not good enough. From victim support through to police investigation, court proceedings, sentencing and monitoring of offenders upon release, we must be sure that our priorities are the innocent victim, public safety and the need for proper justice.”