Number of reported rapes in Northern Ireland rises
Counselling body: ‘There are still many victims who do not yet feel they can come forward’
Nexus chief executive officer Cara Cash said: “If more people are educated and talking about the fact that [rape] is never the victim’s fault, we are removing a barrier.” File photograph: Getty Images
The number of reported rape offences increased significantly in Northern Ireland over the last year, police have said. The tally rose by 8 per cent, or 71 instances, over the last year.
An organisation providing vital counselling for victims said meanwhile that its workload had risen by 50 per cent.
Nexus chief executive officer Cara Cash said: “We still firmly believe that there is still under-reporting of these crimes, so while the increase [in reporting] is welcomed, there are still many victims who do not yet feel they can come forward – many who may be blaming themselves or unsure as to what might happen.
“This is not good enough. The reality here is that sexual violence is never the victim’s fault, and we hope in some way that our own campaign, ‘Break the Silence’, is helping victims and survivors understand that.”
Overall, the PSNI recorded 98,873 offences of all types, an increase of 1,035 (1 per cent) over the previous 12 months, a statistical bulletin published by the force said.
Higher level of crime
Most policing districts experienced a higher level of crime. Increased levels were seen in violence against the person, sexual and drug offences, while criminal damage and theft offences (including burglary) showed falling levels.
Ms Cash said Nexus had heard some clients say they would not put themselves through a trial if it was going to have similarities to the one in which Ireland and Ulster rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding were cleared of rape.
We understand how difficult it can be for someone to report a sexual crime
She added: “We have seen a 50 per cent increase in referrals for our specialist counselling service in two years.
“We are seeing people from age eight and above because of rising demand.”
She said people affected need specialist services, and “we need appropriate investment and understanding of our work to support them”.
She called for a more open and frequent conversation about sexual violence.
“We need appropriate fact-based education for our young people so they understand the facts around a safe sexual relationship, about consent etc.
“We need those who may come into contact with victims and survivors to fully understand the impact sexually violent crime can have; the traumatising and life-changing impact it has on people is enormous and cannot be over-emphasised.
“We all need to be communicating that it is never the victim’s fault.
“Victims and survivors often feel they would not be believed if they chose to come forward, that can be a major block for them.
‘Removing a barrier’
“If more people are educated and talking about the fact that it is never the victim’s fault, we are removing a barrier.”
The PSNI said the statistics are a reflection of public confidence in the police force.
Det Supt Deirdre Bones said: “I believe that the increase is a reflection of the growing confidence that victims have in coming forward to the police.
“We understand how difficult it can be for someone to report a sexual crime and I would assure anyone who chooses to speak to police that they will be listened to, respected and treated sensitively.
“The report they make will be thoroughly investigated.” – Press Association