The number of rapes reported to Staffordshire Police has plummeted during the coronavirus lockdown.
Latest Home Office figures show there were 231 reports of rape recorded by Staffordshire Police between April and June. That compares with 297 rapes over the same period in 2019/20.
Ninety of the rapes were reported in Stoke-on-Trent, with 18 in Newcastle borough.
The data reveals that most of the complaints related to females over the age of 16. There were 41 rapes involving girls, with 12 of them on under-13s.
There were nine rapes of males over the age of 16, and 11 rapes of boys under the age of 16.
There are also five cases of gang rape against a female, committed by ‘multiple unidentified offenders’, and one against a male.
In September, Staffordshire Police launched a new specialist team dedicated to investigating rapes and serious sexual offences.
Detective Chief Inspector Nicki Furlong, who heads the force’s rape and serious sexual offences team, said: “We know that victims worry about being believed and that this is a barrier to reporting. However, this team of officers have all chosen to work in this area of policing and are passionate about supporting victims and bringing offenders to justice so please don’t let that stop you reaching out.
“In Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent we have seen a similar reduction in the number of victims who have reported offences of rape to that seen nationally. We are aware that during the same period our partner agencies which offer support services have seen an increase in reporting to them.
“Regardless as to which service victims reach out to, it is so important that victims know where to go and who to contact in order to get help and support. We also recognise that sometimes victims do not want to reach out to the police.”
Staffordshire Women’s Aid launched Survive – a new sexual violence service – in September. It provides free, confidential emotional support, advice, practical help and counselling for victims of abuse and those close to them. Its 24-hour confidential helpline is 0300 33059590.
In Stoke-on-Trent, Savana offers counselling and support services to all victims of sexual violence from the age of four. It can be contacted between 9am and 5pm on 01782 433204.
Across England and Wales, police forces recorded 11,873 rapes between April and June – a 20.6 per cent drop over the same period the previous year.
It has sparked fears that some victims have been unable to speak out.
Victim Support official Alex Mayes said: “While there was a fall in reported rapes and sexual assaults during the coronavirus pandemic, this does not mean that these types of crimes or the impact on victims had gone away.
“In fact, our specialist services saw a 47 per cent increase in victims seeking support for sexual violence when lockdown restrictions eased.
“It’s important to highlight that most rapes are committed by someone known to the victim and lockdown restrictions may have meant that many survivors felt unable to report to the police.
“We want survivors to know that they can access specialist support at any time, regardless of whether they have reported to the police.”
Anyone seeking help can contact Victim Support’s 24/7 national Supportline on 0808 1689111 or its live chat services vby clicking here.