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:

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