London has seen an 11.8% percent rise in sexual offences being reported in the last year, according to figures collected by the Metropolitan Police for the year to May 2018.
Nationally, reports are also rising, with a 24% year-on-year increase in sexual offences reported in the latest Crime Survey for England and Wales.
It is always difficult to draw conclusions based on differences in a single year’s statistics; however, the trend does seem to be heading towards a greater number of reports over time. So what is behind these figures? Is it an increase in crimes, or an increase in awareness leading to a higher percentage of victims making a report?
There is no doubt that one person experiencing sexual abuse is still one too many, and as such we must look to address the roots of sexual violence within the broader social and cultural backdrop of our societies to halt these crimes. It is therefore encouraging to see that recent movements such as #MeToo have brought sexual violence into the public consciousness like never before. Revelations about historic institutional and organised child sexual abuse have also helped shed light on the scale of sexual violence perpetrated against women, men and children. Doubtless these factors are part of the picture behind the statistics, and we hope that more people do feel able to come forward in pursuit of justice.
It is important however, that we do not underestimate and look to challenge the ongoing difficulties victims face when they report sexual violence. Rape and sexual offence cases continue to take an unusually long time to come to court, and victims’ sexual and mental health histories are still seen as “fair game” by some legal defence teams, without any consideration of the psychological impact of sexual trauma. Read more here.
Earlier this summer, our CEO Mary Mason challenged Germaine Greer on her dismissal of the #MeToo movement. (Full debate here) When even purported fellow feminists seek to discredit people speaking out about their experiences, sexual violence is likely to remain under-reported. Based on our frontline work supporting survivors going through the criminal justice system, we believe that even the continually increasing reporting figures are only the tip of the iceberg.
If you have experienced sexual violence at any time in your life, you are welcome to contact our Rape Crisis helpline for support
If you would like to support our work with survivors of sexual violence, you can make a donation here.