The death of 33-year-old Sarah Everard, who was killed after walking home in South London on March 3, has reignited a nation's soul-searching over the safety of women.

The government has since vowed to ask police to record violent crimes against women motivated by gender. But what does the latest data tell us about how common attacks in women in Suffolk are?

Sex attacks on women are soaring

Gemma – not her real name – didn’t know her rapist very well. The then 20-year-old had been out drinking with friends in Ipswich but wanted to go home after pulling a muscle in her back.

While waiting for her friends, Gemma’s attacker offered to help her get home after one more drink.

“Because of other experiences I had been through I was always so careful with drinks when I was out,” she said.

“The one time I let my guard down, I paid the price. He spiked my drink and raped me.”

In Suffolk, there were 774 reports of rape made to the police by adult women in the year ending March 2020, the equivalent of more than two a day, and an increase of 127pc from the same period in 2016.

Separately, Suffolk Police also dealt with were 741 reports of sexual assault against women in Suffolk in the year ending March 2020, compared to 499 in the year ending March 2016 – an increase of 48pc.

Police data from April and September 2020, suggests the number of rape reports in the year ending in March 2021 will be even higher.

But the figures also reveal that fewer attackers than ever are being brought to justice, with the charge rate for rape reports as low as 2pc and just 5pc of assault reports leading to charges.

Campaigners say the charge rate is so low party because of a lengthy and traumatic legal process that causes many to withdraw complaints.

Just under half of all women who reported being raped in the year leading up to March 2020 withdrew from the process, while another 20pc of cases fell through because of evidential difficulties.

Katie Russell from the charity Rape Crisis said any improvement in the way crime data is collected and recorded was “welcome news” but stressed that most rapes are still unreported, with only an estimated one in six victims going to the police.

East Anglian Daily Times: Katie Russell of Rape Crisis England and WalesKatie Russell of Rape Crisis England and Wales (Image: Rape Crisis)

“Hopefully, better reporting will be a step towards more perpetrators being brought to justice and in the longer term towards a reduction in these types of crimes,” said Ms Russell.

“But we also need better resourcing for places like Rape Crisis centres, and we need to see better justice outcomes for survivors too.”

‘A constant battle’

Speaking about the impact of her attack, which happened 14 years ago, Gemma said she was very angry and bitter for a long time, and that the feelings had never really gone away.

“I’ve got lots of amazing men in my life but there’s this constant battle in my mind, a voice saying I don’t like men, that I am constantly fighting against,” she said.

“These last few weeks have been hard since the Sarah Everard case. It’s just the attitudes you see and hear."

Meanwhile, domestic abuse offences now makes up almost a sixth of all crimes reported to police.

And the number of reported stalking offences has surged by 194c in the last five years, with a big spike in reports during lockdown, as stalkers turned to the internet to harass their victims.

A Suffolk Constabulary spokesman said a national push to encourage victims to come forward was behind the rise in reports, and added that the force had invested significantly in rape and sexual assault investigators, front line training and support services.

“Increasing society empathy for victims, positively influenced by the media and support groups, has also resulted in more confidence for those coming forward to speak out against abusers," they said.

“The greatest numbers of stalking offences are by individuals who know their victim,” they added.

“This can include ex-partners or someone you have had some sort of prior acquaintance. We will use a range of methods to bring those responsible to justice.”

East Anglian Daily Times: Police data shows reported cases of stalking exploded during lockdownPolice data shows reported cases of stalking exploded during lockdown (Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

‘No blurred lines’

Gemma points to early education as a good place to start, and said she hopes that the increase in attention following the death of Sarah Everard doesn’t fade away.

“I think it’s about respect, and that comes from a young age,” she said.

“Children should be being taught about consent and respect in primary schools, before this behaviour becomes normalised.

“Society needs to stop being so defensive and awkward about this. Talking about it shouldn’t threaten people. Men need to talk to their friends, women need to talk to their friends. There shouldn’t be a blurred line. People are allowed to say no.”