Violence against women "everywhere" according to charity CEO as shocking sexual offences statistics revealed

The chief executive of Leeds Women's Aid said violence against women and girls is "everywhere" - amid shocking statistics revealing an increase of sexual offences being reported in the city.

By Daniel Sheridan
Wednesday, 4th May 2022, 4:45 am

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More sexual offences were recorded in Leeds over the last year, amid a record high number of such crimes across England and Wales.

West Yorkshire Police recorded 3,014 incidents of sexual offences in Leeds in the 12 months to December 2021, according to new data from the Office for National Statistics.

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Nik Peasgood said violence against women was "not rare" and instead "extremely common". Pic: Simon Hulme/National World

That was an increase of 21 per cent compared to the previous year.

At 3.8 crimes per 1,000 people, that was slightly higher than the rate across England and Wales, which stood at 3.1, the ONS found.

Nik Peasgood said violence against women was "not rare" and instead "extremely common".

"It’s happening all around us and women and girls know this", she told the YEP.

Nik Peasgood said violence against women was "not rare" and instead "extremely common". Pic: Simon Hulme/National World

"Because of this the number of reports of rape and sexual violence incidents is increasingly high, although most remain unreported.

"Awareness of women and girls safety has increased significantly since the tragic murders of Sarah Everard, Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry, to name a few.

"Women and girls are outraged and how unsafe we are, and at how we are treated by the criminal justice system.

"Along with this, awareness of the issues of sexual violence, domestic abuse, stalking and coercive and controlling behaviour has never been so widespread in TV, media and socials; for example being explored by popular programmes like Coronation Street and the Archers, along with investigations from the likes of Panorama, Stacey Dooley and others."

The ONS said the latest statistics may reflect a number of factors, including the “impact of high-profile incidents, media coverage and campaigns on people’s willingness to report incidents to the police, as well as a potential increase in the number of victims”.

It said the overall number of crimes recorded were lower during lockdowns but that there were “substantial increases" from April 2021, with certain offence types returning to or exceeding pre-pandemic levels.

Nik said an increase of social media activity - with public people called out for their criminal and damaging behaviour - may have had a factor in giving "girls the confidence that they might be believed".

She added: "One of the most disempowering and frightening things for someone who has experienced controlling and violent behaviour is that they are often threatened and intimidated into thinking that no-one will believe them.

"Although there has been much publicity about how appallingly low the rates of charging and convictions are for such crimes, and how despite reporting figures being the highest ever, conviction rates have plummeted to the lowest ever, women and girls are still clearly wanting to stand up and say that this behaviour is not appropriate and should not be tolerated within our society."

Katie Russell is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Support After Rape and Sexual Violence Leeds .

She said the significant increase in reported sexual offences to the police corresponds with a surge in demand for the specialist sexual violence and abuse support services at SARSVL.

She added: "It’s important to remember that according to Government data, less that 20 per cent of those subjected to these traumatic crimes will ever report what’s happened to them to the police, so the prevalence of sexual offences are likely much higher than these figures suggest.

"With this in mind, it’s likely the increase is more to do with the gradually increasing willingness of survivors and victims to come forward than an actual increase in incidents.

"Anyone whose life has been affected by sexual violence or abuse can visit our website for information about support available, regardless of whether or not you’ve reported to the police:"

The total number of offences in Leeds increased by 11 per cent, with police recording 100,679 crimes over the course of the year.

This puts the overall crime rate at 126.0 per 1,000 people, compared to a national average of 85.5.

Other crimes recorded in Leeds include a 16 per cent rise in violent offences and a small rise in thefts and criminal damage.

Public order offences also surged by 29 per cent in the same period, the ONS said.