NL – The police registered 9,900 sex crimes last year, 1,100 more than in 2021, Statistics Netherlands (CBS) reported based on new police data. It is the highest number in ten years. More victims have to wait six months or longer for the police to pick up their cases. The investigations into sexual offenses are much more complex than before, according to police vice expert Lidewijde van Lier. “It is now possible that you are investigating one report but then come across a massive case with all kinds of victims.
According to CBS, the increase in cases is mainly due to more registered reports of rape and sexual assault. In 2022, the police registered 2,955 sexual assaults and 2,885 rapes – a record. A year earlier, these were 2,265 and 2,400, respectively. According to CBS, this increase may be the result of increasing social attention to sex crimes after the abuses behind the scenes of The Voice of Holland came to light early last year.
Most victims of sexual offenses do not go to the police, according to CBS’s Security Monitor. In 2021, only 11.5 percent of victims reported the crime. That is considerably less than victims of other types of crime, where 37.5 percent got to the police. Sex crime victims also sometimes wait a long time before turning to the authorities. Just over a fifth of rapes reported to the police last year were committed in previous years.
The Center for Sexual Violence (CSG) agrees that the nearly 10,000 sex crime reports are just the tip of the iceberg. “The size and impact are much greater than the number,” said director Iva Bicanic. The CSG offers psychological, medical, and forensic help to victims of sexual violence. “Most people don’t come out with it at all, let alone go to the police. They are afraid of others’ reactions. That they will think something of it and make nasty or accusatory remarks. Or that they will be told they should report it.” Possible incomprehension or disbelief from those around them also plays a role. “By keeping quiet, they avoid that,” said Bicanic.
Bicanic called it a good development that sexual violence has recently received more attention in the media and that more people are going to the police. “At the same time, we are concerned that certain groups remain underexposed. People who are abused at home are still the largest group,” said Bicanic. “As a society, we need to realize that these abuses are happening all around us, sometimes closer than you think. If we stop looking away, victims will eventually speak up more quickly.”
The police’s sex crime expert Van Lier also called it excellent that more victims “are able to find the police. It is nice that people dare to knock on the door. We want to encourage that. But we also want to provide clarity as quickly as possible and help people further.”
At the start of this year, the police were actively handling 3,400 sex crime investigations, such as sexual assaults, rapes, or child sex abuse. The number of victims waiting longer than six months increased from slightly less than 800 to 860.
According to Van Lier, the increase in long-waiting cases “remained limited” compared to the sharp rise in reports, partly due to entire police teams focused on clearing backlogs. “But we would have preferred that the amount had decreased.”
She blamed capacity problems – though the police are on schedule for recruiting and training more sex crime detectives – and more complex investigations. “There are more cases where we have to conduct in-depth digital investigations,” she said. And that is labor-intensive work. In mid-January, for example, the Public Prosecution Service charged a 24-year-old man with blackmailing over a hundred underage girls with nude photos. The Prosecutor called it the largest investigation into online abuse of minors in the Netherlands. And according to Van Lier, it is “not an isolated case.”
The police are recruiting more people, speeding up their work processes, and listening more closely to victims’ needs. “We’re coming out of a time when we were, I put it somewhat black and white, focused on whether or not to file a report. Now we have more to offer.” For example, mediation or other forms of help, which may fit a case better than a report.
Reporting by ANP and NL Times