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Sexual violence in France: breaking the silence

Population and Societies

445, May 2008

We now know more about the frequency of sexual violence in France thanks to a series of scientific surveys conducted in recent years on representatives samples of the population. In a 2006 survey, the number of people who reported having experienced sexual violence at some time in their life was double that recorded in a similar survey six years previously. Nathalie Bajos and Michel Bozon explain the reasons for this increase, which above all reflects a greater readiness to speak out.
The /Contexte de la sexualité en France /(CSF) survey in 2006 asked respondents if they had experienced forced sexual intercourse or attempted forced intercourse at some time in their life, using the same question as asked in the 2000 national survey on violence against women in France (ENVEFF). From one survey to the next, the number of reported sexual assaults doubled, with 16% of women and 5% of men in 2006 reporting experience of forced intercourse or attempted forced intercourse at some time in their life. This increase is not due to a rise in the frequency of assault, but to a greater propensity to report experience of sexual violence in a scientific survey, associated with stronger social condemnation of such acts.

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