Every year in Spain there are up to 400,000 incidents of sexual violence, the vast majority against women or girls. The University of Barcelona has just presented a study, the first national of its kind, which estimates the scale of sexual violence in our country and which was commissioned by the Ministry of the Interior a year and a half ago. Those 400,000 violent incidents per year can be ‘measured’ in another way: we would be talking about 250,000 aggressors, mostly men, and 350,000 victims per year.
The study includes a broad definition of sexual violence, as defined by the WHO: “Any sexual act, the attempt to consume a sexual act, comments or unwanted sexual advances, or actions to market or use in any other way the sexuality of a person through coercion by another person, regardless of their relationship with the victim in any environment, including the home and workplace ”. That is, from rapes committed by strangers and acquaintances, sexual assaults in the sphere of the partner, child abuse, harassment at work, trafficking and sexual slavery to online crimes such as grooming or daily sexual violence in the form of comments or non-consensual touching.
The research tries to put figures on a heterogeneous reality that has an important hidden part. One of the authors, Antonio Andrés Pueyo, professor of Psychology at the UB and member of the group for Advanced Studies in Violence, talks about “the dark figure”, all that sexual violence that remains in the shadows and that they have tried to estimate to find out its social prevalence. They have done so through the data of complaints, sentences and convictions, but also all kinds of official, clinical and hospital reports, theses, self-incriminations of aggressors, surveys and an analysis of existing data on sexual violence in universities, workplaces, or sports.
The ‘macro’ figures are those 400,000 incidents of sexual violence of all kinds committed by 250,000 perpetrators out of 350,000 victims each year. The difference between the data is due to the fact that an aggressor can commit several crimes, just as a victim can suffer more than one. 25% of these incidents are against minors, both boys and girls and adolescents. Pueyo explained that the younger the minor victims the percentage of boys and girls is more similar, while as they approach pre-adolescence the predominance of girls among the victims is much higher.
The data can be extrapolated, but are specifically attributed to the period between 2018 and 2019. The estimate of the general detection of sexual violence in Europe stands at 2.17% and in Spain, the report says, the value is similar, which This means that the system only detects 2.2% of this type of crime and incident.
Have sex crimes increased?
The greater visibility of sexual violence in recent years, in the heat of phenomena such as MeToo or the case of ‘the herd’, has increased the perception that it was increasing. The study speaks, however, of a stabilization of sexual crimes, even of a somewhat downward trend, except in the case of new online crimes. It is these types of crimes, such as cyberbullying and online sexual blackmail, that are growing.
“We cannot assure with certainty that these events are increasing or that their reporting increases, although in the case of online crimes it is easy for it to grow because it is a new phenomenon,” explains Andrés Pueyo. The evolution, he points out, shows a decrease in the most serious crimes and an increase in other incidents. “Many less serious crimes are not reported, but when asked about them in the surveys they do appear,” he adds.