REPORTS of sexual assault decreased during the first coronavirus lockdown, the Oxford Mail can reveal.

Between March 23 and July 3 there were 487 reports made to Thames Valley Police.

This was a 35 per cent decrease on the same time period the previous year.

Between March 23 and July 3 2019 659 reports of sexual assault were made, 172 more than this year.

Read also: Domestic abuse increased during lockdown in Oxfordshire

Speaking to the Oxford Mail, Amelia Hartley, 25, who volunteers for the Oxfordshire domestic abuse prevention charity, Reducing the Risk explained the possible reasons for these statistics.

Ms Hartley said: "The statistics show that there was not an increase in sexual assault reports, perhaps there is a decrease in opportunity for sexual assault when public spaces, such as pubs, are closed.

"However, as the majority of sexual assault and rape is perpetrated by someone known to the victim, restrictions on seeing family and friends may contribute to this reduction, and lockdown may have trapped people with their abusers, making them unable to report due to fears of not being believed and having to remain at home.

Read here: How to get help about domestic violence

"Sexual abuse is also a tactic used in domestic, abusive relationships.

"There is also a very low conviction rate for reported sexual assault and rape - so disclosure and reporting is much lower generally.

"I am also a volunteer for Oxfordshire Sexual Abuse and Rape Crisis Centre, so speak directly on the helpline to survivors and victims and have used this to inform my comments."

Lisa Ward, CEO of the Oxfordshire Sexual Abuse and Rape Crisis Centre, said: "Changes to reported figures only tell one part of a wider story, with the pandemic being one part of a much bigger picture.

"Nationally just 15 per cent of those who experience a sexual offence report it to the police, and the conviction rate has also fallen to a record low in recent years, which may have reduced confidence in reporting an experience of sexual violence to the police.

Read more: Pilot service in Oxfordshire helps domestic abuse victims in court

"During the same time period, Oxfordshire Sexual Abuse & Rape Crisis Centre's referral rate has risen by 23 per cent on the previous year.

"We know that the pandemic and lockdown have increased new types of sexual violence such as online abuses via video calling software, as well as increasing the likelihood of experiencing abuse for those living with abusive partners or family members.

"We have also seen an increase in PTSD related symptoms for historic survivors of sexual violence, who are now requiring support."

Yesterday the Oxford Mail reported that domestic violence cases had increased over the lockdown period by more than 10 per cent compared to the previous year.

The charity, Reducing the Risk of Domestic Abuse Oxfordshire, saw a 55 per cent increase in calls.

Thames Valley Police have said they are continuing their efforts to protect people, particularly those who are domestically abused, over lockdown.

More information about domestic abuse how to protect yourself in a domestic abuse situation, or how to spot the signs is available on the Thames Valley Police website:

If you or someone you know is a victim of sexual assault you can call the Oxfordshire Sexual Abuse and Rape Crisis Team on 0800 783 6294. You can also send them an email at

If you are in immediate danger, call 999.