Women's Safety: crime figures reveal the risks women face in Bedfordshire
More than 600 women and girls reported rape in just a year
The death of Sarah Everard has triggered a public outcry about the safety of women and how offences against them are dealt with.
An analysis of figures from Bedfordshire Police reveals the risks that women face, with murder, rape and abuse contributing to what campaigners describe as a deadly 'global pandemic' of violence against women.
The most recent official statistics at police force level show that two women and girls were killed in the area between April 2016 and March 2019.
According to a report from the Femicide Census, a research and campaigning organisation, 11 of those killed in Bedfordshire in the decade to 2018 were females aged over 14. They were all killed by men.
And Bedfordshire Police figures show that more than 600 women and girls reported rape in just a year.
Home Office statistics show that women are disproportionately impacted by sex crimes and are more likely to be victims of stalking, harassment and domestic abuse than men.
A spokeswoman for Rape Crisis called for radical action in the fight to end violence against women and warned that the scope of the problem is much higher than official figures suggest.
Of the 706 rape cases recorded in Bedfordshire in the year to March 2020, 94 per cent involved female victims, as did 82 per cent of 573 sexual assaults dealt with by the force in that time. The force area has the highest rate of female rape victims in England and Wales.
There were also more than 7,000 crimes flagged as domestic abuse by officers in that period – the equivalent of 12 in every thousand people being violently or psychologically abused by someone they know.
A spokesman for Bedfordshire Police said: "Our message to anyone who commits rape or sexual offences, domestic abuse or violence, stalking, harassment or misogynistic abuse, is that our dedicated officers will investigate and you can expect to face the considerable consequences of your actions.
“We would also say to victims, that if something has happened to you, please come forward and report it. We are able to provide safeguarding, and offer care and guidance, no matter when the offence happened.
“We have specially trained officers working closely alongside highly skilled, specialist partner agencies, such as the Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC), to ensure you can get the support you need right through the investigation process, and beyond.”
“You will be believed, and we will listen.”
Domestic abuse has increased during the coronavirus lockdowns but a Rape Crisis spokeswoman said: “Violence against women and girls is a global pandemic that long pre-exists Covid-19.
“The vast majority of it is never reported to the police and when it is, it rarely ends in criminal justice being served.”
Surveys suggest that women and girls are also regularly harassed in public, with a recent YouGov poll for UN Women finding that at least seven out of 10 in the UK had experienced sexual harassment on the street.
Official statistics do not reflect the scale of this specific issue but do show that Bedfordshire officers investigated 2,304 harassment allegations and 142 stalking cases.