Sex offences in London reached a decade-high level in March according to new police data.
The Metropolitan Police registered 2,119 sex offences during the month, which surpassed the previous high of 2,038 in July 2018.
Sexual abuse charity The Survivors Trust received as many as 100 more helpline calls per week between February and March following the launch of the government campaigns #ItStillMatters and #StopAbuseTogether.
A spokesperson for the charity said: “This last year has been particularly difficult for victims and survivors of sexual abuse, many of whom have faced periods of lockdown with their perpetrator and without access to their usual support networks.
“Recent high-profile cases, such as the murder of Sarah Everard and the Everyone’s Invited movement, have provoked public outrage about the prevalence of violence against women, sexual assault, and sexual violence in our society.
“The subsequent conversations that these events have sparked have helped to spread much-needed awareness and empowered many to challenge the myths and stereotypes surrounding sexual violence.
“Talking about the prevalence of sex offences and tackling the taboo of the subject is an essential step towards reducing the stigma associated with sexual assault and encouraging survivors to speak out against the abuse that they have suffered.
“As a society, we need to recognise that everyone has a right to decide what they do or don’t want to do sexually, and that informed, enthusiastic consent is always needed.”
The March peak suggests Everyone’s Invited may have encouraged more victims to report crimes, although we cannot verify a direct link.
Office for National Statistics data suggests fewer than 16% of female sexual assault (by rape or penetration) victims aged 16 to 59 report it to the police.
Of all London boroughs, Westminster experienced the highest level of sex offences over the decade with 8,718 recorded cases.
South west London boroughs Lambeth and Croydon both made up the top three worst boroughs with 8,118 and 7,838 offences respectively.
Richmond was the London borough with the lowest number of offences: 2,413.
Three other London boroughs had below 3,000 offences and all three were in south west London.
Kingston had 2,767 registered offences, Merton had 2,824, and Sutton had 2,848.
A Met Police spokesperson said: “The increase in offences is a positive indicator of victim confidence in reporting. There has been a lot of media coverage in the period of February to April around the murder of Sarah Everard and the subsequent vigil in which violence against women and girls offences were high profile in the media.
“At the same time, there was significant media coverage around the website ‘Everyone’s Invited’ which sought to highlight hidden rape culture within school and other sexual offences or sexual harassment.
“The Met Police response to these events was to work to build public trust and confidence on reporting through a number of activities undertaken in collaboration with our communications team.
“The spike should be seen in a positive light as it shows an increase in public trust and confidence as a result of proactive media to address the high profile publicity at that time.
“The data has been checked for any linked series or themes and has been compared with pre-COVID data.
“We welcome and encourage people who are victims of crime to continue to report incidents to the police. We have specialist officers and charity partners who can ensure that you can access the support you are entitled to, and we will help you every step of the way.”
Sexual assault victims can call Survivors Trust’s free 24/7 helpline 08088 010818 or email [email protected]