Statistics on sexual assault can be misleading. While they can give an indication of trends, the fact that many cases go unreported out of shame, fear or self-blame means that official figures only partially indicate the extent of the problem. A landmark global study reveals that one in 14 women has been attacked by someone other than a partner. But cold, hard numbers are of no comfort to victims, nor do they offer the support from family and society that, despite being essential, is too often lacking. In research published in medical journal The Lancet , investigators looked at sexual-violence studies from 56 countries involving women 15 and older. There was a wide variance in rates, with the highest in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the lowest in India and Bangladesh. (Hong Kong was not included, although police recorded 105 cases of rape and 1,463 of indecent assault last year.) The researchers acknowledged that the actual extent was probably much greater due to under-reporting and a lack of accurate data. An accompanying editorial was straightforward, though: levels were unacceptably high and the crime was neither rare nor limited to particular parts of the world. An horrific incident in New Delhi in 2012, in which a student was gang-raped and fatally assaulted on a bus, drew international attention to sexual violence, particularly in South Asia. Campaigning by activists has increased public awareness and led to revised laws and prompter official action; in Bangladesh last Thursday, two men were ordered to serve jail terms of at least 32 years for raping a 17-year-old garment factory worker, a penalty unthinkable a year ago. But while such cases embolden women, they do not mean societies are more understanding or properly able to help victims. In Hong Kong, as elsewhere, families have to be more sympathetic, police and medical workers better educated and support mechanisms put in place to deal with the relationship breakdowns, work and school problems, and mental disorders such as anxiety and depression that victims often suffer.