NI rape offences up by almost 10% in past year

Cara Cash, chief executive officer of Nexus NI, said that rape is still under reported
Cara Cash, chief executive officer of Nexus NI, said that rape is still under reported

The number of rape offences increased by almost a 10th in Northern Ireland over the last year, police said.

The tally rose by 8% or 71 over the last year.

An organisation providing vital counselling for victims has said its workload had risen by 50%.

Nexus chief executive officer Cara Cash said: “We still firmly believe that there is still under-reporting of these crimes so while the increase 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%) when compared with the previous 12 months, a statistical bulletin published by the force said.

Most policing districts experienced a higher level of crime; increased levels were seen in violence against the person offences, sexual offences and drug offences while criminal damage and theft offences (including burglary) showed falling levels.

Ms Cash said, anecdotally, Nexus heard some clients mention that they would not be putting themselves through a trial if it was going to be like the one in which Ireland and Ulster rugby stars Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding were cleared of rape.

She added: “We have seen a 50% increase in referrals for our specialist counselling service in two years.

“We are seeing people from aged eight and above because of rising demand.

“Sexual violence is happening in Northern Ireland.

“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.

“If more people are educated and talking about the fact that it is never the victims fault, we are removing a barrier.”

The PSNI said the statistics are a reflection of public confidence in the police force.