Researchers write the first global report on sexual violence in Spain

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From left to right, Juan José López and María Jesús Cantos (Ministry of Home AffFrom left to right, Juan José López and María Jesús Cantos (Ministry of Home Affairs), the rector of the University of Barcelona, Joan Guàrdia, and Antonio Andrés Pueyo.

UB researchers have written, required by the Spanish Ministry of Home Affairs, a report on sexual violence in Spain which gathers and analyses the existing data in order to provide a global view of the phenomenon. The authors of the study used official figures, such as the number of reports and sentences, and several published surveys and researches on this issue, among other sources. In the report, it is estimated that in Spain there are about 400,000 incidents of sexual violence in a year, 100,000 of them being minors. Between the 85% and 95% of the adult victims are women.

The authors of the study, members of the Group of Advanced Studies on Violence ( GEAV ) of the UB, made these estimations considering the data in the field of sexual abuse represent only a part of the total and that there is a high number of "hidden data", a phenomenon that can be described with the iceberg metaphor: you can only see a small part of the reality. With the available data, and applying data combination methods, the figures of the hidden data were estimated, and with these, the incidence of the sexual violence cases per year in all their types and varieties.

The report defines sexual violence as stated by the World Health Organization (WHO), which considers violent all those intentioned and harmful sexual acts that are committed without the victim’s consent, therefore including child sexual abuse. The study concludes that the probability of being a victim of a sexual violence incident is 1:45 for women and 1:60 in the case of children and adolescents. The research gathers data from reports by the WHO on Spain, from the Report on crimes against sexual freedom and compensation in Spain (Spanish Ministry of Home Affairs, 2018) and the Macro-survey on violence against women in 2015 and 2019, among many other statistical sources. It also includes data from the annual victimization survey by the Barcelona City Council and which, in the 2018 edition, noted that 1.4% of women and 0.1% of men reported having been victims of sexual violence in the previous year.

"This is the first time such a report is written, putting the focus on sexual violence in all its forms and dimensions, from light and daily —at school, home or at work— to severe ones —rape, child sexual abuse or sexual abuse to people with disabilities, etc. The other fundamental aspect of the study is that it shows the importance of the existing "hidden data" in this field at present", notes Professor Antonio Andrés Pueyo, principal researcher of GEAV. The report states that knowing the basic statistical magnitudes of sexual violence is essential to apply any preventive policies to fight this kind of violence. In this sense, it suggests developing a periodic victimization survey, specifically dedicated to sexual abuse.

María Jesús Cantos Cebrían, head of the Department of Gender Violence, Studies and Training of the Spanish Ministry of Home Affairs, highlighted the importance of fighting violence against women through knowledge, "providing more reliable, complete and detailed data on its forms, incidences, causes and consequences". "Social concern for this type of violence is increasing and it requires a preventive solution", adds Cantos. "This is why we need an updated study of the prevalence and incidence of the sexual violence facts in Spain that enables us to see its extension, magnitude and evolution, and therefore complete the information on the reported facts". The head of the Department of Gender Violence of the Spanish Ministry of Home Affairs insisted on the need to fight against infra-reporting and encouraged the victims to report to the security forces about any fact that violates their integrity and dignity.

The rector of the University of Barcelona, Joan Guàrdia, has highlighted the level of the research group that led the study: "We have one of the most important research groups on the study of violence in Spain, which again shows the key role of the universities regarding social challenges". The rector said the fight for equal opportunities and against gender violence is an inescapable priority. "In this regard, I would like to emphasize that as an institution, we are making a firm commitment to include transversal gender perspective in all bachelor’s degrees and fields of research of the UB", concluded Joan Guàrdia.