Just under 1,300 sexual offences have been reported to the police over an 11-year period, official figures have revealed.
That means that since the start of 2008, two sexual assaults have been reported to the police every single week, or once every three days.
Women make up the overwhelming majority of reported victims, accounting for close to 90% (1137) of the total figure. Over 400 victims are under 18.
In 2019, there have been 62 victims who have reported their attacks to police officers.
The figures fail to paint a full picture, with a significant number of cases going unreported, particularly in a Maltese society where abuse often takes place within tight-knit communities and is in some cases amongst relatives.
The Maltese government has fought hard against sexual offences, with the country’s laws undergoing a significant overhaul 2017 and 2018. The Istanbul Convention was ratified, while the legal definition of rape was tied to the concept of consent and extended to include more forms of unwanted sexual assault.
However, the number of reported victims per year has remained consistent since 2008, potentially indicating that despite the government’s best efforts, many victims simply do not report their crimes.
The issue is two-fold, with time-barring preventing victims from reporting the assault to the police after a certain period. Minors, for example, are given 10 to 15 years (depending on the case) to report the crime.
This means that if a person were seven-years-old when he was sexually abused, he would have till 23 to come forward.
Five anonymous victims recently detailed how they finally find the courage to come forward, only to see their abusers walk scot-free merely because of a technicality.
Administrations have been slow to address the legal loophole. However, with PN Leader Adrian Delia addressing the issue on social media earlier this week, maybe the political will to undergo the change is starting to grow.