Nexus comment: Northern Ireland sexual offences reach highest on record for year
The BBC have reported that sexual offences in Northern Ireland have reached highest on record for year. It has been reported that “There were 4,232 such incidents recorded between April 2022 and March 2023.This is an increase of 4.7% on the previous year and the number of domestic abuse crimes recorded also increased”.
Speaking to this, our CEO Joanne Barnes said:
“It is worrying, but unfortunately not surprising to us at Nexus, that sexual offences, including rape, sexual activity, grooming, exposure, and voyeurism reported to the PSNI in 22/23 have risen, once again, to the highest level recorded.
“The number of clients (567) and client families (73) we have supported in the past year has also risen by 33% (from 427) and 55% (from 47) respectively.
“Additionally, the number of people who have experienced sexual abuse and called the Domestic and Sexual Abuse Helpline increased by 75% from 1,927 in 21/22 to 3,378 in 22/23.
“It is encouraging that more people are reaching out for advice and support, however we always caveat these numbers as the ‘tip of the iceberg’, with many of these crimes going unreported and people not reaching out for help and support.
“Many individuals who use our services choose not to report the offences to the Police, often citing fear of not being believed and not feeling strong enough to undergo the judicial process.
“We have a concerning gap in research on the issue of sexual abuse in Northern Ireland which is why we will soon be embarking on a research gap analysis in partnership with Victim Support NI and others. In doing so, we aim to influence future research being undertaken so that government policy is based on robust data and holistically addresses the systemic practices, attitudes and beliefs that can perpetuate abuse.
“As with most issues, early intervention and education are key. Our children and young people deserve to receive accurate, robust, up to date, consistent and mandatory Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) – the level of RSE received should not depend on the ethos of the school. Government has a duty to make sure all children and young people are equally prepared and equipped for life.
“Therapeutic interventions, such as counselling, must be available to people who experience sexual abuse when they need it and the Justice System needs to reform to become timelier, survivor-focused, and trauma informed.
“In addition, when perpetrators are brought to justice, interventions must be in place to reduce re-offending.
“Actions and initiatives such as these will bring us closer to a society free from sexual abuse and abusive relationships.”
If you need advice or support, call the 24hr Domestic and Sexual Abuse Helpline on 0808 802 1414, it is available 24/7 for any individual impacted by domestic or sexual abuse, either directly or indirectly. Webchat and email services are also available on dsahelpline.org and firstname.lastname@example.org. The DSA Helpline is hosted by Nexus on behalf of the Departments of Communities, Health and Justice.