Friday, 18 November 2011

130 rapes per month, Operation Bluestone and big stats

This post was written in collaboration with Dr Helen Mott and Anna Mapson of Bristol Fawcett, who yesterday evening collated stats and sources for me to back up the claim in the Cutting Women Out of Bristol report that there are 130 rapes in Bristol each month. You can download the report here:

So, when I started sending out press releases for Bristol Reclaim the Night, I used the stat from the report that there are, on average, 130 rapes in Bristol each month. The BBC received the press release, and we arranged an interview for this morning. I was surprised then to get a call from the police yesterday, disputing the stats and saying that their figures showed that the number was closer to twenty. I explained that the 130 was based on unreported rapes, and that the 20 were just reported rapes. We had a good chat, and I think we found common ground and left on good terms.

However, the BBC then phoned me to warn me that in the interview this morning, the presenter was going to ask me about these stats and why our numbers were different to the police's.

So here's what I explained on the radio, from Helen's and Anna's fantastic and interview saving research!

Every month in Bristol more than 50 sexual assaults and other sexual offences are reported, 19 of which are rapes.

Where is this statistic from?

This figure is reported in 2010 on WomensGrid in an article on Bristol Rape Crisis (we must assume that either Rape Crisis press released the figure or that it was obtained from the police). This in turn comes from an Evening Post article here, January 2010:

When we look at the Home Office site ( and look up the latest available figures for 2007-8 for the Avon and Somerset area (this is not just Bristol) then we see the total (reported) rapes (men, women and children) is 429, or 35.7 a month! Which then on a reporting rate of 15% means 238 a month for the whole Avon and Somerset area.

That gives us an overview of the varying numbers of reported rape in Bristol and in the wider Avon and Somerset area. If we return to that first number though, which supports the stats the police quoted, we have an average of 19 reported rapes per month in Bristol.

But this is reported rapes. When we look at the British Crime Survey over 6 years, we find that on average, only 15% of rapes are reported. In fact, when we include repeat victimisation in the figures, the annual reporting rate actually drops to 9%, or fewer than one in ten. We need to balance this against a reporting rate that is more like 41% for victims under 16 years old.

So, when we know that we have 19 reported rapes per month in Bristol, but that only represents 15% of rapes overall, we can estimate that each month in Bristol there are 127 rapes.

However, we really need to emphasise that this isn't us trying to trip up the police or make them look bad. In Bristol we can be really proud of the work that Operation Bluestone (the part of the force dedicated to looking at sexual violence) have made, including big strides in tackling sexual violence. Their work has won awards, and as well as working with survivors and victims, they are also running educational programmes to tackle the causes of violence against women and girls. They collaborate with the Bridge Sexual Assault Referral Centre and have always stood in solidarity with BFN and RTN. Of course it isn't perfect, there is a long way to go, but steps are being made in the right direction to ensure that women and girls in Bristol have a police force they can feel confident reporting rape and sexual violence to.

You can listen to me on the iPlayer explaining the stats, explaining rape culture and talking about the great work of Operation Bluestone here:

Chief Supt Sara Crewe from Bluestone is talking at 2 hours 19 min 39 sec
I start talking at 2 hours 21 minutes 18 seconds

Credit goes to Ministry of Truth for their interrogation of the national stats:



Question whilst there are on average 130 rapes in Bristol each month there is no mention of sex of perpetrators. Are these perpetrators martians? Also what is the sex of the victims of these rapes?

Of course we know the answer as to sex of perpetrators and that is they are males but we must never, ever name men as the ones accountable for committing sexual violence against women and girls must we? Instead we must continue to hide men's accountability and engage in passive language thereby ensuring male sexual violence.

Correct and factual terminology should be 'males rape on average 130 females in Bristol each month.' These are the facts or if x number of males are raped by other males then that fact should also be stated.

We must never ever collude with male supremacy and hide the facts - male supremacy does very well as it is in hiding the truth and doesn't need us feminists colluding with the male oppressors.

Collating statistics and sources is an excellent way of stating the facts but all too commonly the real issues remain hidden - I repeat again what is the sex of the perpetrators and what is the sex of the victims?

Audrey Reeves said...

Thanks for the post! One comment comes to mind though. You say 'steps are being made in the right direction to ensure that women and girls in Bristol have a police force they can feel confident reporting rape and sexual violence to'. I think it's important to keep in mind that men and boys are also victims of sexual violence and rape, though male survivors of sexual violence are (even) less likely than women to report it.

According to the British Crime Survey, in 2010-2011, 3,722 sexual offenses against men and boys were reported (8% of all sexual offenses). Among these, 1,310 were rape offences and 2,412 sexual assaults. Given the problem of underreporting, the actual numbers are probably much higher.

In order to give men and boys a chance to be heard and helped, we must be careful not to produce a discourse that presents women and girls as the only possible or actual victims of sexual violence - even though, according to existing research, women and girls still constitute the overwhelming majority of victims.

Audrey Reeves said...

Also, with regard to Jennifer's comments above, I want to point out that women can be and sometimes are involved in acts of sexual violence against other women or against men.

This does not erase the need to acknowledge the fact that the vast majority of acts of sexual violence are committed by men against women, and examine the structural reasons behind this.

However, to gain a fuller understanding of the social and interpersonal dynamics that allow sexual violence to happen, we must keep in mind that both men and women can be sexually violent, and that both men and women can be victims of sexual violence.