According to a recent data from mental health trusts, 300 sexual assault cases have been reported in the past 3 years in mixed-sex mental health wards.
During the period November 2003-March 2006, women have been subjected to 300 sexual assaults on mental health wards in England alone. Of these, patients attacked other patients in 224 cases.
According to the government, only 1% of the psychiatric wards have mixed sex. Mental health campaigner Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of the charity Sane, said, "These revised figures are likely to be the tip of the iceberg. "
"Psychiatric units have become places which are rife with aggression and fear because of overcrowding and understaffing," she said. "Sexual assaults happen far too easily and when they do they are not being taken seriously and reported."
The government giving in to the demands from mental health charities has announced a grant of Ģ30m to ensure the safety of women on wards. Based on the recent findings of the magazine Community Care, new strategies for better sexual safety in the NHS is being drafted by the Department of Health, which will be published in spring 2007.
Professor Louis Appleby, the Government's mental health tsar, said, "In my opinion, there is significant doubt in the majority of cases as to whether any incident occurred. But I believe the issue of sexual safety remains important and I am determined to see it addressed."
However, Paul Farmer, chief executive of the charity Mind, said, "Government skepticism is part of the problem. "Patients have to believe it is worth making a complaint and that they will be taken seriously," he said.
Moira Fraser, head of policy at the Mental Health Foundation, said, "Attitudes of managers and frontline staff need to change. Patients must feel safe to report any incidents and these must be taken seriously by staff and acted upon," she said.
According to the Young Minds charity, several kids are admitted to the adult wards every year, posing a high risk for them. "We are aware of a recent case where a 17-year-old was placed on a ward with an adult male who had previously sexually assaulted a minor," a spokeswoman for the charity said.
"You go there to get better, not to be assaulted," said a victim.