Sexual assault reports in London nightlife reached six-year high in 2021

The new findings arrive despite venues being closed for much of the year due to coronavirus restrictions

Reports of sexual assaults taking place in London’s clubs, bars, pubs and music venues rose were at their highest in six years in 2021, according to a new investigative report.

According to information obtained by Time Out from the Metropolitan Police, 207 allegations of sexual assault and 29 reports of rape were recorded in London nightlife establishments between January 1 and October 31 of last year.

The rise in assaults comes despite the fact that venues were closed – or otherwise limited in capacity by social distancing guidelines – during the first six months of 2021 due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Since 2016, the number of rape and sexual assault allegations in London venues has climbed by nearly a fifth. It’s unclear if this is related to an increase in reporting or more instances.

The number of rape offences in the year ending June 2021 was also the highest ever recorded nationally, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), with a jump between April and June.

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According to Nick Stripe, the ONS’s head of crime statistics, this rise may be partially attributable to high-profile campaigns and public figures speaking out about abuse.

“Prior to the pandemic, the number of police-recorded sexual offences was well below the number of victims estimated by the Crime Survey for England and Wales, with fewer than one in six victims of rape or assault by penetration reporting the crime to the police,” Stripe told the Guardian.

Bryony Beynon, co-founder of Good Night Out – an initiative focused on raising initiative and action taken to combat sexual assault through staff training – said that victims of assault may have been more willing to speak up about incidents than in previous years.

“We have had a pause on nightlife for over a year, so people’s thresholds of what they’re willing to put up with may have shifted,” she told Time Out. “Venues have been put under pressure to make sure that COVID stuff is in place, so they could be co-operating more to actually report things.”

For help, advice or more information regarding sexual harassment, assault and rape in the UK, visit the Rape Crisis charity website. In the US, visit RAINN.