THE number of domestic abuse rapes reported in Bradford to police rose by more than 30 per cent last year.

Figures obtained from West Yorkshire Police under the Freedom of Information Act revealed reports rose 31 one per cent from the year before, while in the past two years only five reports – one per cent of reported offences - have led to people being charged.

Meanwhile, the number of offences defined as domestic abuse rose by 264 in 2020 compared to 2019 in Bradford.

When the Covid-19 lockdown began last March, concerns were raised by charities, campaigners and politicians that the ‘stay at home’ order would lead to a big rise in domestic abuse, with victims unable to escape from their abusers.

West Yorkshire Police said the increase could be down to increased confidence in police, and that tackling domestic abuse is a “key priority” for police in Bradford.

The police figures reveal in 2020, 12,014 offences associated with domestic abuse were recorded in Bradford, up from 11,750 in 2019.

These are classed as offences which met the cross-government definition of Domestic violence and abuse, which is "any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality, and the abuse can encompass, but is not limited to: psychological, physical, sexual, financial and emotional".

These offences include rape, other sexual offences, stalking and harassment, and violence, but also include many other different types of crime.

The biggest rise was in stalking and harassment reports, which rose by 290 in 2020 to 3,516 recorded offences.

In 2020, 270 rapes were reported to police, up from 206 in 2019, while reports of other sexual offences rose from 74 to 93.

Violence leading to injury reports rose marginally from 2,042 to 2,054, while incidents of violence not causing injury reported actually fell by more than 100 to 3,582, as did public order offences by 46.

Other offences which saw a rise include criminal damage, arson, vehicle offences and crimes against society.

Of the 476 rape offences reported in the past two years, only five have led to charges being brought so far, with 13 investigations complete with no suspect identified, 362 experiencing difficulties identifying perpetrators, and 95 classed as ‘non-crimes’.

Refuge runs the National Domestic Abuse Helpline, and said many victims “feel unable” to go to the police.

Lisa King, Refuge director of communications and external affairs, said:  “The lockdowns of the past year have seen a sharp increase in survivors accessing Refuge’s specialist domestic abuse services.

“Between April 2020 and February 2021, the average number of calls and contacts logged on our database per month was 61 per cent above the January to March 2020 period.

“Stalking and harassment often play into a broader pattern of abusive behaviour, with police reporting that 37 per cent of all such offences recorded in England and Wales in the year ending March 2020 were domestic abuse related.  

“Many survivors don't feel able to report abuse to the police but they can access support in other ways.

“Every day Refuge supports more than 7,000 women and children; 6,000 access support from our community based services and many others through our helpline, which is the gateway to accessing wider specialist support across the country.

“We want all women experiencing domestic abuse to know that we will believe you, we are here to support you - you are not alone.”

The Suzy Lamplugh Trust supports victims of stalking, and has also seen an increase in calls since the start of the Covid pandemic.

A spokesperson said: “‘There have been recent changes to the Home Office Counting Rules, which may have contributed to the rise in recorded reports.

“However, stalking is an incredibly prevalent crime with one in five women and one in 10 men experiencing stalking in their lifetimes. 

“Since March 2020 we have seen a rise in calls to the helpline, clients are more distressed and are requiring much greater support, we have also seen an increase in cyber stalking cases.

“Demand has fluctuated to the helpline over the course of the pandemic, in some periods it has tripled on pre-Covid levels.

“The introduction of Stalking Protection Orders has been very much welcomed, though we do still hope to see more police forces issuing them.

“We know that domestic abuse has risen drastically during the pandemic, and this is evident in the rise of ex-intimate partner stalking cases that we have seen on the Helpline. 

“According to the Crime Survey for England and Wales there are around 1.5 million victims of stalking each year and as such we believe there is still significant underreporting of this crime.

“We would encourage all victims to come forward and get the support they need to report their experience.”

Superintendent Richard Padwell, of Bradford District Police, said: “Tackling and reducing domestic abuse and protecting vulnerable people continues to be a key priority for West Yorkshire Police.

“The increase in the number of reported incidents and those arrested can be attributed to victims and witnesses feeling increasingly confident in reporting incidents to the police and other agencies, alongside our continued commitment to safeguard those in our communities. 

“The cycle of domestic abuse can be difficult to break, and where there are often complex relationships, we know people do not often feel comfortable or confident in coming forward to the police. 

“During the past year, despite the Coronavirus pandemic, Bradford District Police have remained committed to ensuring victims of domestic abuse have the help and support they need.

“The safeguarding teams in Bradford have been working closely with NPT teams to ensure they have been vigilant whilst out on patrol and on visits to provide help and safeguard anyone in need of support.

“We have specially trained officers working across the District in our safeguarding unit who take all reports seriously, deal with them sensitively and do everything possible to safeguard those who are vulnerable. 

 “This terrible crime often happens behind closed doors and we are absolutely committed to putting the needs and wishes of the victim at the heart of what we do.

“I would urge anyone who is subject to domestic abuse to make contact with us directly or alternatively through other partners or third sector agencies to ensure that they and those around them do not suffer in silence, and that they all receive the necessary support and advice to break the cycle of abuse.

“Similar to other police forces nationally, over the last year we have seen an increase in the number of stalking offences recorded; much of this increase relates to improvements in crime recording practices by the Force and also increased confidence by victims to come forward and report these offences to police.

“If you would prefer not to speak to police, we work with a number of partner agencies, but if it is an emergency, always dial 999. We have specially trained officers who can provide support and practical assistance and help keep you safe - even in periods of isolation.”

If you are a victim of domestic violence or abuse and need help, you can ring these helplines for support.

National Domestic Abuse Helpline - 0808 2000247

National Stalking Helpline  - 0808 8020300

You can also report offences to West Yorkshire Police on 101 or by visiting the police website, and if it is an emergency call 999.