In 2003, an anti sex work research organisation (Lilith Research and Development, a subsidiary project of Eaves Women’s Aid) published research equating the opening of Lap Dancing clubs to an increase in reported rape. The research stated that after lap dancing clubs opened in Camden, reported rape increased by 50%. A few years later the Guardian published an update, there was a mathematical error and the rape rate had only increased by 30%. As with all research, once the headlines have been released, these headlines will always be quoted by those wanting to win their argument. The 50% figure is still used in propaganda packs by the anti sex work groups.
Brooke L Magnanti, PhD. (Belle de Jour) has revisited this research with a different finding, looking at a longer time period, and comparing the Camden statistics with other London boroughs and national reported rape statistics. Reported rape has actually decreased. She has written a paper titled The impact of adult entertainment on rape statistics in Camden:a re-analysis.
Her comments on looking at a greater set of data, and comparing the Camden data with Lambeth, Islington and nationally is best said in her own words.
If a cause-and-effect relationship between the number of lap dancing clubs and the occurrence of rape existed, we would expect Lambeth to be lowest of the three because it has no clubs. By the same assumption we would expect Islington to be higher because it has a couple, and Camden highest because it has more than those other boroughs. The analysis however shows that Camden is consistently the lowest of the three. The results do not support a causal link between the number of lap dancing clubs in a borough and the risk of rape.
The trend for the three London boroughs shows that Lambeth (with no lap dancing) and Islington (with only 2 clubs) both have rates that are higher than Camden’s. It also demonstrates that all three have decreased over time, while the trend in England and Wales over the same time period has been for a rise. Apart from the early 2000s peak, Camden’s numbers are similar to the overall rate for England and Wales, and are sometimes below it. In the original report it was claimed that Camden’s rapes were “three times the national average,” and this has been reported elsewhere. This new analysis shows that statement is not true at any point within the studied time period.
Studying the figures Brooke supplies, there is a drop in reported rape in Camden, other that for the three years immediatly after 1999. Overall the London boroughs have a reduction in reported rape, which goes against the National figures which show a rise.
I expect the incorrectly interpreted Lilith research will continue to be used by those who want to close down lap dancing clubs. The figure of 50% increase in rapes will continue to be published in newspaper reports, and used in publicity by the ant sex work groups.
Brookes interpretation (which is not new, a report by Bill Martland was sent to parliament in 1998 ) is important, because I expect Lilith’s findings were used to help persuade Hackney council to go for a nil policy for sex work establishments. Object still publish the discredited 50% increase in reported rapes on their website. It is important to debunk these figures with real interpretations of actual data. There have been many reports stating these figures were grossly wrong, but as you can see the anti sex work groups of Eaves, Object and the Fawcett Society are still peddling them.
Where ever they publish these misrepresentations they must be targeted to withdraw them.