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If you are a woman who is walking down the street alone in the late night, and accidentally you meet a group of guys hanging out with nowhere to go, what would happen when you pass them?

It may be the words “hey, beauty” or “hey, sexy girl,” or being instructed to smile. Or maybe more intentional: standing in the way or blocking the path in hope of some interaction. Or perhaps may get more aggressive, with hands reaching to inappropriate places. Actually, this kind of situation is far and wide, with one end harboring the potential for things to become more violent with physical abuse or rape. In Canada, the United States and The United Kingdom, women being sexually assaulted has become a serious problem. However, there is still a loophole after asking the police for help – Will the police believe you?

A 20-month investigation by The Globe and Mail reveals that sexual-assault victims are more likely to be believed in some areas of the country than in others.


1.1 35% of Women globally have experienced physical or sexual violence

1.1.1 CNN’s Demographic


From CNN’s news “Sexual harassment: How it stands around the globe”, it talks about women sexual harassment has become a global problem. According to the UN Women, nearly 35 percent of women in the world have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or sexual violence by a non-partner in their lives. As shown in the graph, there are 100 of women figure with 35 of them filled in orange colour. The graph clearly stated the percentage of women suffered from physical or sexual violence. Although there is not much information about the investigation or other related information, it is a reader-friendly graph which allows reader get the information directly.  As a result, the message carried by the graph is clear. It strongly shows the seriousness of the global women sexual violence problem.

1.1.2 UN’s map


The Global Database on Violence against Women by UN uses a map to express its data. The Database provides easy access to comprehensive and up-to-date information on measures undertaken by Governments to address all forms of violence against women. It also increases opportunities for exchange of experiences in addressing violence against women and strengthen the knowledge-base for effective policy responses to prevent and address violence against women.

1.2 Unfounded Sexual-assaulted in Canada

On 3 February 2017, The Globe and Mail published news called “WILL THE POLICE BELIEVE YOU?” It revealed that there are more sexual-assault victims than it was recorded in Canada. They present the data on the national map. By using the national unfounded sexual assault rate as the measurement, the data was divided into two groups. One is below the national rate, which is filled with blue colour, the other one is above the national rate, which is filled with red colour. Also, the number of population is identified by the size of the circle. As shown as below, readers can clearly see the difference of unfounded sexual assault rate among the country.  


Especially for the Southern and rural Ontario. They discovered that many of these areas are policed by the Ontario Provincial Police which the unfounded sexual assault rate was 34%.


They have done a 20-month investigation for this news. In the article, there is not much about how they get the data. However, they provided an URL link which links to another article titled “How The Globe collected and analyzed sexual assault statistics to report on unfounded figures across Canada”, they clearly explained how they did this investigation and gather the information. This news story also integrated multiple data techniques, including maps,  to express the sexual-assaulted situation in Canada.

1.3 The Vast Majority of Perpetrators Will Not Go to Jail or Prison in America

On the other hand, America shares the similar situation with Canada. According to the information from RAINN,   which is an American, anti-sexual violence organization, only 310 out of every 1,000 sexual assaults are reported to police and only 0.6% of rapists will be incarcerated.


RAINN explained the reason of low report rate. Many sexual assault victims afraid of being revenge. They also believed the police would not help them. Some of them thought sexual harassment was a personal issue.

At the end of the web page, RAINN mentioned that the data came from reliable sources. One is National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), which is conducted by the Justice Department once a year. They also learn the information form Justice Department studies, other government and academic sources.

1.4 One in five women have been sexually assaulted in the UK

The news was published on 8 February 2018 on The Guardian. According to the latest findings from the Crime Survey for England and Wales, around 3.1% of women over 16 has experienced sexual assault in 2017. The data was presented by a bar chart. As shown in the graph, both the percentage of women and men being sexually assaulted was presented. Obviously, by looking at the chart,  the rectangle which represents men was far less than that of women. It shows the problem of women suffered from sexual assault is more serious than men in the United Kingdom. However, since the graph did not show us the exact number or the percentage. There is no way we can know whether the ratio is correct or not. It is difficult for readers to process the information since the chart is not clear.


Moreover, there is another bar chart which tells us more details. It shows the number of women and men suffered from any sexual assault attempts. Also, the chart specifically mentions two of the sexual attempt, which is indecent exposure or unwanted touching and rape or assault by penetration including attempts. Apart from the final result, the graph also shows the majority case of sexual assault attempts. It helps the readers to understand more about the sexual assault problem in the United Kingdom. The article also mentioned the response from The Office for National Statistics, who said more than 80% of victims did not report their experiences to police. As a result, the sexual assault problem will not be improved.   


2. Interactive elements
On the website “WILL THE POLICE BELIEVE YOU?” produced by The Globe and Mail,
there are many interactive graphics which allow readers to process information specifically.

2.1 Search Bar
On the top of the website, there is a search bar. Readers can look up the related police jurisdiction for different places. Once you press the ‘ Enter ‘ key on your keyboard, there will be a specific article for that place. It will show you the relative data about the unfounded sexual assault, for examples, the unfounded sexual assault rate for 5 years in that place. A search bar is created by HTML and CSS. It allows readers to search for more details.

2.2 Interactive Graph
On the website, it includes a graph titled “2014 sexual-assault unfounded rate compared to the rate of female officers”. It is to shows the different between sexual-assault unfounded rate and rate of female officers among different places. Each little circle represents one place. When you put the mouse on the circle, it will show you the name of the place and relative police department, with the percentage of female officers and unfounded numbers. Also, you can selectively observe the data by choosing the whole data, British Columbia and Ontario.


2.3 Bar Chart
Bar charts are used to show the change of data between 2010 and 2014. As an example, the chart titled “Unfounded sexual-assault rate by population size in 2010 to 2014”. These bar charts are visualized by CSS and HTML. The colour of the bars changes when the mouse hovers at a certain bar.

2.4 Circle Views
There is another graph showing the communities listed by the national five-year unfounded rate in 2010 to 2014. The list includes all communities in Canada that have sexual-assault unfounded data across the five years. The graph provides a filter by population. Readers can observe the difference of the unfounded sexual-assault rate by selecting different population. Readers can also choose to see the data in ascending or descending order. Moreover, by comparing the data with the national 5-year rate, readers can know which communities have more serious unfounded sexual-assault problems.

2.5 Comparison
Compare to other websites reporting sexual assault news, The Globe and Mail’s “WILL THE POLICE BELIEVE YOU?” is the only one which contains interactive elements. Other news websites simply post certain graphs with analyzed data. Through adding interactive elements, it could attract readers’ attention. Also, it is easier for readers to understand the data by selecting specific area.



In order to show the current situation of sexual assault, the editor of “ The Globe And Mail” use five head portraits as representation. One of the light heads was picked out with four grey portraits, which highlight the conclusion “ In Canada, police dismiss 1 out of every 5 sexual-assault reports as unfounded – meaning police believe the crime didn’t happen.”

What’s more,  data and experiments are combined to demonstrate the seriousness of the unfounded data in Canada. It does not make much sense when the most readers see the number of police jurisdictions directly, but when the portion of data and information are translated into a percentage of the Canadian population, a considerable amount comes out, so that readers can be aware of the danger posed by such problems immediately. In a similar way, the deterrence of “The unfounded sexual assault rate in Canada from 2010 to 2014 is 19%” is not such huge. However, when 19% is converted into a specific case number, that also could achieve the effect of emphasizing. Additionally, the editor not only compares the number of sexual assault cases with the physical assaults but also mentions the false-reporting rate at the same time.

After showing powerful data and making readers feel convinced, the editor leads to the reason – broken system. He aggregates the unfounded sexual assault rate of each city into a map, also uses various colours to represent the different rates. This way clearly shows the relationship between rates and cities and naturally draw the conclusion “The west coast had lower unfounded rates and southern Ontario had the higher one.”

In the next, by using the bar chart, it is much easier to see the contrast between different provinces, and also the editor adds a line to contrast the differences. Then, he displays a scatter diagram to show what between female workers and data is. The sexual-assault unfounded rate of BC and Ontario in 2014 were extracted separately also, which make these two trends obvious. After that, the editor compares the top five rate with the minimum rate, which highlights the differences in Canada’s various regions. That way powerfully proves the above conclusions. Later, the editor use bar charts with specific numbers to emphasize that unfounded data makes unfounded sexual-assault allegations serious. The whole chart with percentage unambiguously represent the unfounded data in different regions over the past five years, also it as a small summary of the full text at the end.


There are still several flaws appearing in the news story “WILL THE POLICE BELIEVE YOU?”. Some of these drawbacks get to rise to decline the interactive experience, some of them may cause the story too confusing to understand, some of them are not enough distinct to express the specific statistics.

4.1 No complete response on other devices

While looking at the news story on phones, some errors occur on the screen. The following example shows the flaw that the national snap cannot load phone and the switch of the four dimension pictures is too fast.


The above national snapshot on computer browser disappears on phone’s screen! It also cannot load when changing the size (smaller size) of the screen of the computer browser. The reason is simply that the division of the snapshot is too large.

This is what the dimension pics of the national snapshot on the browser:


However, it becomes a flash on the phone:


The main problem of the above gif is the fast switching speed. This is going to result in the uncomfortable experience for readers. It should prolong the interval time for readers so that they can aware and pick up important information from these pictures. In addition, when using phones, the indicator around the summary pic also disappeared. Therefore, readers would not aware the different circles represent how much-unfounded female.

4.2 Complicated expression

Some visualize expressions in the news story are complicated and unnecessary.


This above gif demonstrates two main problems. Firstly, the size of circles should not be the same. Thus, while looking at the gif, it is hard to find which location has the heaviest unfounded amount. The second problem happens while clicking the circle. These data repeats what the column expresses while putting a mouse on the circle.

The dimension pages after clicking are unnecessary and should be deleted.

4.3 Unclear and Inexact

It is obvious that sometimes readers are hard to realize the exact range. Just like the following.


It is easy to compare which circle is larger, which one is smaller. But it is hard to define which range they belong to, due to the interval differences between population groups are little. Moreover, the text should explain why those places where the unfounded sexual-assault rate over 29% would surround a city like Toronto, Montreal and Windsor where the rate is significantly lower than the National rate.


In conclusion, all the news websites have presented the data regarding women sexual assault issue. In the case of Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom, we know that the problem of sexual assault for women is serious among the world. Moreover, the data also shows that the law enforcement authorities may not able to help those victims.

All the news websites used their own way to present the data. It seems that The Globe and Mail   “WILL THE POLICE BELIEVE YOU?” is better among all. It is because they have used more interactive elements. Readers can freely select the information they want to read. Nevertheless, the other news websites have done a great job. They have used various way to present the data, such nation map, bar chart and little human image. Although there are some drawbacks, especially for The Guardian’s “One in five women have been sexually assaulted” and The Globe and Mail “WILL THE POLICE BELIEVE YOU?”, readers can still understand the content through the text.

All these graphs help the readers to understand the issue of women sexual assault. Hoping that more people will pay attention to this issue and the situation can be improved.


Meera Senthilingam, CNN Graphics by Sarah-Grace Mankarious, CNN. (2017, November 29). Sexual harassment: How it stands around the globe. Retrieved from https://edition.cnn.com/2017/11/25/health/sexual-harassment-violence-abuse-global-levels/index.html

Global Database on Violence Against Women. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://evaw-global-database.unwomen.org/en

The Criminal Justice System: Statistics | RAINN. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.rainn.org/statistics/criminal-justice-system

Will police believe you? Find your region’s unfounded sex assault rate. (2017, December 14). Retrieved from https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/investigations/compare-unfounded-sex-assault-rates-across-canada/article33855643/

Travis, A. (2018, February 8). One in five women have been sexually assaulted, analysis finds. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/feb/08/sexual-assault-women-crime-survey-england-wales-ons-police-figures

Author/ ZHANG Xinyi, LI Yik Ming and WANG Yutong ( JOUR2106 Data Visualisation (2018) – Group 6 )

Editor/ Jessie Pang

Data News of the Week (DNW) is a weekly issue of news summaries hand picked by our editors. It features a GLOCAL (global+local) perspective for the topic of concern. It tracks the latest developments from the industry and academics for methodology, tools, datasets and news agenda.