'Challenging attitudes towards women' key to stop rise in Suffolk sexual crimes

Banners from the Reclaim the Night march, which aimed to promote women's rights Picture: SUFFOLK RAP

Banners from a Suffolk Rape Crisis march - Credit: Archant

Suffolk Rape Crisis has said that "challenging attitudes" towards women is key to stopping the rise in sexual assault and stalking reports. 

The charity has had a large increase in referrals over the last couple of years and said an increase in reports of sexual violence could be down to survivors coming forward.

All other Suffolk crimes fell, including burglary, assault, criminal damage and arson, and possession of weapons offences between 2020 and 2021, but stalking and sexual offences reports rose by 5.5%. 

A total of 6,529 reports of stalking and harassment was made in Suffolk in the year to September 2021, compared to 6,230 in 2020. 

Sexual offences saw 2,451 reports in 2021, according to ONS figures released in January 2022, and 2,320 in 2021. 

Sarah Lungley, CEO of Suffolk Rape Crisis, said: "We believe that sexual violence is a product of a patriarchal society and will only stop when these ideologies are dismantled.

"This means working to educate people on consent, sexual violence and violence against women and girls.

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"There is a focus on women having responsibility to keep themselves safe, to change or monitor their behaviours, but the reality is this places blame on survivors and does not address the root cause of the issue.

"Statistics released by the Ministry of Justice in 2013 stated around 90% of those who are raped know the perpetrator.

"There is often the perception that this kind of behaviour is carried out by strangers, but this just isn’t the case.

"Unwanted sexual behaviour is not any less serious when it is committed by someone known to the survivor, for example a partner or friend."

Assistant Chief Constable Rob Jones from Suffolk police

ACC Rob Jones from Suffolk police - Credit: Suffolk police

Rob Jones, Suffolk Constabulary’s assistant chief constable, said the awareness of "consent and reporting" sexual violence is something they regularly focus on outside of their enforcement role. 

He agreed that a lot of sexual violence is committed by ex-partners or those in a relationship. 

Mr Jones said: "Rape is still really underreported as all sexual crimes and the confidence to come forward for victims is hard. 

"I would be really happy to say we have agreed on a new strategy with Suffolk County Council on tackling violence against women and girls in Suffolk."

He said from domestic violence to rape and sexual assault, the police are using their "protective powers" to keep victims safe and will come down hard on perpetrators. 

"Suffolk remains a really safe county, and there has been a bigger reduction in crime compared to other areas," he added.