Portsmouth chief inspector says 'shocking and unnerving' stranger rapes are 'unusual' for city

CONCERNS have been raised about three stranger rape attacks branded ‘shocking and unnerving’ by a senior police officer.

Friday, 25th September 2020, 3:34 pm
Updated Friday, 25th September 2020, 4:40 pm

Questions were raised at a public meeting following three women being raped in separate incidents in Southsea and Buckland between August 3 and September 20.

It comes as activists, campaigners and people working with victims of sexual violence are set to discuss if Covid restrictions have a role to play in the sudden spate of stranger attacks.

Speaking at Portsmouth City Council’s health and wellbeing Board meeting on Wednesday, chief inspector Rob Mitchell, after being asked if the three stranger rapes were exceptional, said ‘they’re unusual’.

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Police presence at Clarence Parade, Southsea on August 4, 2020. Picture: Habibur Rahman

He added: ‘We've had three stranger attacks in the last 12 to 14 weeks – none of them connected, one resulted in a charge and remand.’

He added: ‘They stand out because they are shocking and unnerving incidents when they happen.’

Stranger attacks are ‘rare’

He said they were ‘unusual for the city’ but added that 'any sexual violence is traumatic and life-changing for the victim and family'.

Chief Inspector Rob Mitchell in Guildhall Square, Portsmouth. Picture: Sarah Standing (040319-701)

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Sam Graves, the council’s community safety researcher, said there had not been a 'massive increase’ but her team would be ‘monitoring it very carefully’.

Ch Insp Mitchell said other figures showing an increase – not including the three recent rapes – did include domestic and historic sex offences, while stranger attacks remained ‘rare,’ he said.

Sexual violence remains ‘elephant in the room’

Gemma Green is the lead for Project Catalyst at Portsmouth Abuse and Rape Counselling Service.

She told The News campaigners and experts in the sector are set to explore if Covid-19 restrictions have had an effect on such sexual violence, including social distancing in pubs and clubs denying people the chance to assault in those venues.

She said: ‘Are we seeing more stranger sexual assault and rape in the street because some of the other options have been closed off to offenders? We don’t know but we're looking at it.’

Gemma said people are ‘scared and really shaken up’ by the recent attacks.

But she added sexual violence remains ‘the elephant in the room’ with many incidents happening behind closed doors in relationships or through grooming.

Gemma said: ‘It’s almost like communities are starting to accept that domestic abuse is happening and that people subjected to that, and it’s awful.

‘But the sexual violence, and the sexual abuse, and the rape, people still don't want to acknowledge that’s happening.’

She added: ‘The message from Parcs is that we’re still here, and we've been here for nearly 40 years and we’re still needed.’

Increase in sexual offences

Separate figures show ‘some increase in sexual violence’ in Portsmouth, the council meeting heard.

Regarding this, Ch Insp Mitchell said: ‘A lot of that will be historic, so it's hard to say that there's a rising trend for us. Some of that could be more confidence for coming forward and reporting.’

He revealed an historic probe into the abuse of young boys over decades in Portsmouth is ‘still generating new rape complaints’ this month.

As reported, a man has been charged with raping a 19-year-old woman on August 29 in an alleyway off Clarendon Road, Southsea.

Six teenagers from Portsmouth were arrested following another 19-year-old woman being raped on Sunday in Turner Road, Buckland. Five were released on bail to October, while one was released under investigation.

Police are still investigating the rape and violent assault of a 40-year-old woman on August 3 on Southsea Common.

Get support

For support, call Parcs office on (023) 9266 9613.

Alternatively, e-mail [email protected] or call the women’s line on (023) 9266 9511 or men’s line on (023) 9266 9516.

See parcs.org.uk for more.

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