The number of rape offences has increased by almost 10% in Northern Ireland over the last year, according to a police report.

Over the last 12 months reported incidents rose by 71 cases or 8%.

However an organisation providing counselling for victims says its workload has risen by 50%.

Nexus Chief Executive Cara Cash says that a large number of people are afraid to report cases to the police.

"We still firmly believe that there is still under-reporting of these crimes so while the increase (in reports) is welcomed, there are still many victims who do not yet feel they can come forward, many who may be blaming themselves or unsure as to what might happen.

Ms Cash said demand for the counselling service has risen significantly in the last few years and has been used by children under the age of 10.

"We have seen a 50% increase in referrals for our specialist counselling service in two years. We are seeing people from aged eight and above because of rising demand.”

She added: "We need appropriate fact-based education for our young people so they understand the facts around a safe sexual relationship, about consent etc.”

Ms Cash called for more open and frequent conversation about sexual violence.

"We all need to be communicating that it is never the victim's fault.”

The PSNI report showed that overall most policing districts had experienced a higher level of crime over the last year.

98,873 offences of all types were recorded, an increase of 1,035 (1%), when compared with the previous 12 months.

Increased levels were seen in violence against the person offences, sexual offences and drug offences while criminal damage and theft offences showed falling levels.