Comment: Willingness to report must be encouraged

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today’s figures showing a 20 per cent rise in the number of sex crimes reported in the Capital might seem like evidence of a horrifying trend.

The reality is that almost the opposite is true – and the 1000-plus offences reported in the city over the last year is in fact genuine cause for optimism.

Victims of crime surveys and academic research have long shown that the number of sex crimes being reported accounted for only a fraction of the offences being committed. For far too long, most victims have been suffering in silence. This would be worrying for any type of crime, but when you consider the psychological devastation that a sex attack can cause then this is terribly, terribly damaging.

The rise in reported offences – which mirrors a UK-wide trend – is an encouraging sign.

This is not simply an indication of the increasing willingness of victims to report their experience years after the event, a recognised phenomena sometimes described as the “Jimmy Savile effect” as it has followed the publicity of his crimes and the police investigation into them. There has equally been a rise in the number of “live” offences being reported to the police.

This does seem to show a growing willingness on the part of victims of sex offences in general to report their experience to the police.

Just like the fall in violent and overall crime, this trend has been repeated not just in other parts of Scotland, but across the rest of the UK as well. There is a wider change taking place that can partly be put down to improvements in police practice but also to changing social attitudes.

The NSPCC calculates, however, that a million children are being sexually abused at any one time. This is undoubtedly a step forward, but we still have a long way to go to reach the many more victims who continue to suffer in silence.