Fewer sexual assaults have been reported to police this year than were during the same time period in 2019, RÚV reports. Head of the capital area police department’s sexual assault unit Ævar Pálmi Pálmason believes it’s likely that this drop is related to current gathering restrictions and their impact on the local bar and club scene.
So far this year, there have been 80 reported cases of sexual assault in and around Reykjavík, as compared to an average of 170 reported for the same time period in the previous three years.
Reports of sexual assaults started going down in March, when gathering restrictions first went into effect in Iceland. “One has to consider that there is a connection there,” said Ævar Pálmi. “Reported offences went down in February, March, and April, such that we have to consider whether these measures and the consequences of this pandemic have caused this.” (Ævar Pálmi has not inconsiderable knowledge of the workings of transmission prevention efforts and their consequences; before heading up the sexual assault unit, he lead the police department’s contact tracing division.)
Since the gathering restrictions went into effect, ten to twenty sexual offences have been reported per month. There were ten reports made this July, as compared to 26 in July 2019.
Although it’s difficult to state with certainty that the limited opening hours of bars and clubs is directly related to this drop in reported assaults, Ævar Pálmi thinks it’s likely that there is a correlation.
It’s worth noting, however, that while reported sexual assaults have gone down during the time of COVID-19, reports of domestic violence have gone up 15%, or 70 more reported offences than there were during the same time period last year.