REPORTS of sexual offences in southern Oxfordshire have risen dramatically in the past year, a new report shows.

Non-rape sexual offence allegations in South Oxfordshire rocketed 90 per cent in 12 months, while reports of domestic abuse rose by more than 50 per cent in the Vale of White Horse.

Experts say that the statistics – published in the latest South and Vale Community Safety Partnership performance report – are partly fuelled by an increasing number of people willing to come forward.

The report suggests that there were 571 recorded sexual offences and 1,403 criminal instances of domestic abuse in the region between April 2018 and March 2019 – a 27 per cent and 52 per cent increase respectively. There were a further 776 'non-criminal' domestic abuse instances reported to police.

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But while there is a clear trend towards more reported instances of sexual offences and domestic abuse, the picture is not entirely consistent.

South Oxfordshire saw a drop of 22 per cent in recorded instances of rape, while non-criminal domestic abuse instances dropped significantly both there and in Vale, where non-rape sexual offences remained stable.

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More worrying statistics point towards a rise of criminal instances of domestic abuse in both South Oxfordshire (where there were 737 instances in 2018/19 compared to 498 in 2017/18) and Vale (where there were 666 compared to 427).

Rape cases also rose by around 16 per cent in Vale, from 71 to 82, and non-rape sexual offences shot up in South Oxfordshire, where there were 281 reported incidents, compared to 148 in the previous 12 months.

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Lisa Ward, director of Oxfordshire Sexual Abuse and Rape Crisis Centre, suggested the statistics should be viewed in the context of more victims coming forward.

She explained: “Reports of rape and sexual offences have increased by 47 per cent in South Oxfordshire, and by four per cent in Vale.

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“This year-on-year increase of survivors coming forward to the police matches the data of our own work in which we see demand for services continually rise.

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"As awareness and conversation about sexual violence increases, more and more people are reaching out to police and services like ours. It is likely that this spike reflects greater confidence for people to talk about what has happened to them rather than an increased number of crimes taking place.”

She added: “We welcome anyone who has experience sexual violence at any point in their life to contact us for confidential independent support on 01865 726 295.”

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Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner for the Thames Valley, Matthew Barber – who is also a Conservative district councillor for Steventon and the Hanneys – added: “Thames Valley Police has put a huge amount of effort and resource into increasing the confidence of victims to come forward who have been subjected to sexual assaults and domestic violence.

“Last year's Hidden Harm campaign has yielded good results with more people feeling that they can report the abuse they have suffered.”

He continued: “Responding to domestic violence is a force priority.

“I chair the Local Criminal Justice Board which brings together the courts, probation and Crown Prosecution Service. I hope that the CPS will support the role out of this pilot scheme across the Thames Valley and ultimately nationwide to help deliver justice for the victims of domestic abuse.”

Both South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse district councils declined to comment on the statistics, saying it was a police matter.

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Thames Valley Police had not responded to a request for comment at time of going to press.

The report defines domestic abuse by the national definition as 'any offence that has had any of the domestic abuse qualifiers applied and where the victim or suspect/offender is aged 16 and over and there is a valid relationship between the victim and offender/suspect'.