Crimes against women 'being ignored' as key statistic excludes rape

Dozens of demonstrations calling for the end of violence against women have been carried out in the capital in recent years. Credit: PA

Crimes against women are "simply being ignored" by the government, Labour has claimed, after it was revealed a key crime statistic often quoted by ministers does not include instances of rape or other sexual offences.

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said she is "extremely concerned about the missing information and analysis on what’s happening about crimes against women", following a revelation about the way the Office for National Statistics (ONS) gathers certain figures.

Ministers have often boasted about a halving of "total" crime since the Conservatives took power in 2010 but the ONS does not include many sexual offences when calculating that measure.

It comes after separate figures released by the National Centre for Domestic Abuse and Violence suggested more victims than ever before are coming forward for support.

Why rape and sexual offences aren't included in the UK's 'total' crime figure

The ONS told ITV News the nature of sexual offences means the number of those crimes can be difficult to measure when estimating the UK total, so they are counted in a different way.

When working out the UK's "total" crimes, the ONS carries out surveys and face-to-face interviews to extrapolate a figure - because not all crimes are reported to police - but that excludes many crimes mostly carried out against women.

Helen Ross, who works in the Centre for Crime and Justice at ONS, explained why.

“Collecting survey data on sexual offences, such as rape and unwanted sexual touching, as well as domestic abuse, stalking and harassment can be especially challenging.

"In face-to-face interviews, victims - most commonly women - can be unwilling to respond if their abuser is in the room or if their family is unaware of previous abuse. Sometimes the abuse is ongoing, often it won’t have been reported to police.

“These and other factors mean that instead of publishing total numbers of incidents, we focus on how prevalent the crimes are - or the number of victims - and provide in depth analysis to give a fair reflection of the nature of these offences."

Ministers wrongly claim Tories have halved crime since 2010

Ms Ross said broad assessments on the long term trends of all crime "should be made with caution" for that reason, but that has not stopped the likes of Rishi Sunak, Suella Braverman and other Conservatives from claiming to have halved crime.

Last year the prime minister said in the Commons that "our record is clear. We have halved crime since 2010".

Ms Braverman, who was formerly the home secretary, also claimed in the Commons that "overall crime, excluding crime, is down by 50%".

But Labour's shadow home secretary said "there's real concern" that "some of the most serious crimes that the country faces" are not being acknowledged.

"Labour has set a plan to halve violence against women and girls but that means we need the information, we need the analysis and they need to be visible - we can't have these crimes simply being ignored," Ms Cooper said.

She said her party would carry out an "urgent review of the way information is gathered because these crimes need to be visible".

Reports of domestic violence reach record high

More victims of domestic violence sought support than ever before last year, the National Centre for Domestic Abuse and Violence (NCDV) revealed on Wednesday.

Its figures showed 100,318 victims of domestic abuse were referred to the organisation in 2023, up from 95,905 in the previous year.

The group, which provides free emergency injunctions for abuse survivors, said the number of women seeking help has risen more than fourfold in 10 years - jumping from 23,841 in 2013.

Have you heard our new podcast Talking Politics? Every week Tom, Robert and Anushka dig into the biggest issues dominating the political agenda…

The NCDV receives around 60% of referrals from police and the rest from domestic abuse organisations and other services. Men are also victims of domestic abuse but the vast majority (89.%) referred to the organisation are women.

Sharon Bryan, head of partnerships at the NCDV, said the number of domestic violence reports it receives are "just the tip of the iceberg".

She told the Mirror: "It is terrifying to consider that this may mean 100,318 people sitting at home waiting for the key to turn in the lock, not knowing what the evening holds for them, let alone the future. 100,318 people walking on eggshells.

"100,318 people who need protection from their abuser. All of these people are in potentially life threatening situations, and this number is just the tip of the iceberg.”

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know…