Police in Avon and Somerset are actively using findings from a new report which outlines rates of reporting of rape to improve their service and support for victims.
The report was compiled using data from 43 police forces, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and details a rise nationally in the number of people coming forward to report offences. The report also highlights an increase in reporting of non-recent offences.
The latest set of figures from the Rape Monitoring Group now presents the most up-to-date picture of how rapes are dealt with across England and Wales.
Figures relating to the Avon and Somerset force area follow the national picture, with the force investigating a significantly higher number of rape offences since 2013.
Head of the Protect unit at Avon and Somerset, Detective Superintendent Rachel Williams said: "Nationally, we have seen an increase in the numbers of people reporting rape and this has been mirrored across the Avon and Somerset force area.
"We believe this rise is indicative of an increased level of confidence from victims of serious sexual assaults to report these crimes to us initially and work by police to improve our crime recording practices.
"Tackling serious sexual offences is a force-wide and Police and Crime Commissioner priority and together we are committed to protecting people from offences that cause most threat and harm to our communities.
"Rape is one of the most serious violent crimes and the impact on victims is both devastating and long term. We continually review the way we deal with reports of such offences to improve our practices, better understand the needs of victims, and make sure we place them at the very heart of every investigation.
"This includes working closely with the CPS and other partners to share learnings, information and victim feedback. Together, we are actively using this report to develop our services and ways of working to ensure every victim is fully supported by all appropriate agencies."
Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens said: "Tackling domestic and sexual abuse, particularly towards women and children, is one of my priorities in the Police and Crime Plan. It’s important that all victims of domestic and sexual abuse get the help they need, when they need it.
"Rape and sexual assault can have a profound impact on victims and it’s important they get both practical and emotional support to help them cope and recover from what has happened. I want to continue to improve the consistency and quality of services available to victims and to increase confidence amongst victims to report to the police."
Anyone affected by rape and sexual assault can receive support from the Avon and Somerset rape and sexual assault referral centre – The Bridge. Available 24/7, 365 days a year, The Bridge and their specialist team provide victims with medical, emotional and practical support during a police investigation.
The constabulary is currently working with The Bridge to raise awareness of the help available to victims. Alongside the launch of a new website –www.thebridgecanhelp.org.uk – a campaign will see The Bridge helpline number displayed on leaflets and posters in GP surgeries, university campuses and other public places across the Avon and Somerset area.
Victims are also offered the help and support of an Independent Sexual Violence Advisor, who will explain how the criminal justice process works and offer practical help and support. In October 2014 the force launched Lighthouse, a new service for victims which provides continuing support from the moment they contact police, right through their experience of the criminal justice process.
Working with children and young people is also a focus, with schools officers and neighbourhood teams visiting local schools and youth clubs to deliver a ‘Only Yes Means Yes’ lesson plan – which focuses on consent.
Since 2013, the force has also worked with local councils to deliver a media campaign to challenge myths around rape, with the key message being – ‘There is no excuse for rape and sexual assault, the victim is never to blame’. The website www.thisisnotanexcuse.org.uk gives information and details of local support services for anyone who has been a victim of rape or sexual assault. The website has been visited over 14,000 times since its launch.
Posted on Thursday 5th November 2015