Research reveals extent of sexual violence against female rough sleepers

13 February 2017

Nearly 1 in 4 female rough sleepers has been sexually assaulted in the past year, according to new research from Crisis, the national charity for homeless people.

Drawing on a survey of 458 recent or current rough sleepers in England and Wales, including a total of 72 women, the report also shows how 3 in 10 female rough sleepers have experienced sexual violence at some point while homeless, and nearly 6 in 10 have been intimidated or threatened with violence in the past year (compared to 4 out of 10 male rough sleepers). [see notes]

The figures feature as part of a Dispatches special, to be aired tonight (Feb 13) on Channel 4, examining the unforgiving realities of life on the streets for homeless women. The documentary features undercover reporters with experience of homelessness approaching a series of local authorities for assistance. In many instances, they are turned away without help or meaningful advice despite presenting with mental health issues, learning difficulties or fleeing domestic abuse.

Rebecca Pritchard, Director of Services at Crisis, said:

“This edition of ‘Dispatches’ paints a deeply disturbing portrait of life on the streets for women. The threat of unprovoked sexual attack, abuse and intimidation is clearly never far away, which is why we need mainstream homelessness services that provide safe, women-only spaces that women feel comfortable accessing and seeking help from.

“While the investigation highlights the severe pressure local authorities are under, we need to make sure that homeless women can get help at an early stage. At present, homeless people of both sexes are often turned away when they go to their councils for help. The Homelessness Reduction Bill currently making its way through parliament could help put an end to that injustice once and for all, and we urge peers of all political persuasions to offer their support as it moves through the Lords.”


Notes to editors  

For more information, call 020 7426 3853 or email For out-of-hours media enquiries please call: 07973 372587 

Undercover: Britain’s Homeless Scandal: Channel 4 Dispatches, will be aired at 8pm on Monday 13 February. For more information, contact Lucy Zilberkweit at Channel 4 on 020 7306 1007 / 07843 329 248

Crisis Research:

Over the summer of 2016, 458 people who were either currently sleeping rough or had been in the last 12 months completed a face-to-face survey. 385 were men and 72 were women. Surveys were completed across 21 localities in England and Wales at a variety of homelessness services and organisations. The sample surveyed closely represented the demographic nature of the wider rough sleeping population. 

The survey asked respondents about their experiences of crime and anti-social behaviour. Out of the 72 women who completed the survey:

  • 24% had been sexually assaulted, interfered with or attacked in the past 12 months
  • 31% had been sexually assaulted, interfered with or attacked whilst homeless
  • 58% had been intimidated or threatened with violence and force in the past 12 months compared to 42% of men

Crisis is the national charity for homeless people. 

We are determined to end homelessness. We do it person by person and by influencing policies to ensure everyone has a place to call home.  

Homelessness is devastating, leaving people vulnerable and isolated.  

Crisis offers ground breaking housing, health, education and employment services.  We work with thousands of homeless people across the UK every year.  

We are also determined campaigners. We draw on our research, partnerships and years of experience of working directly with homeless people to deliver change and a vision to end homelessness for good. 

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