As many as 35 rapes are reported to Sussex Police every week – more than double the number from 2014.
The figures were shared by Chief Constable Giles York during a performance and accountability meeting, and were described as ‘staggering’ by Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne.
Mr York stressed to Mrs Bourne that the majority of the cases involved people known to the victims, adding: “This isn’t strangers jumping on people in the street or in a dark alley. That’s still incredibly rare.
“This is often a relationship that has taken an unwelcome turn.”
Mr York was talking about the work of the force’s Sexual Offences Investigation Trained (SOIT) officers and staff – a team set up a year ago to support victims of rape and other serious sexual assaults.
In the past year they have helped more than 1,500 people and the Chief Constable said the team’s work had been fundamental in giving victims the confidence to report assaults.
Mrs Bourne said people would be ‘pretty shocked’ by the figures, which were up from 2.3 per day in 2014 to 4.8 per day this year.
With sexual assaults still the most under-reported of crimes, she asked Mr York if he expected the figures to rise even further.
He said the increase in reported assaults in Sussex matched the national trend but it was difficult to say if it would increase further. He acknowledged that, if he had been asked about the figures seven years ago, he would not have predicted such a rise.
Mrs Bourne asked if the formation of the SOIT team had led to an improvement in the quality of evidence and cases put to the Crown Prosecution Service.
Mr York explained that the team’s aim was to put the victim at the heart of each investigation, to make the often intimidating process more bearable and allow officers to coax out more information and, hopefully, achieve results.
He said: “Rather than sitting across a table with a microphone between two people, what we try to do is make the victim as comfortable as possible so they’re as confident as possible to be able to tell us some of the really traumatising details that they might have suffered.
“That’s where that consistent relationship may help to elicit even more evidence for us because sometimes victims might find it hard to tell us everything, to actually face up to everything that’s happened in the first instance.”