CHESHIRE'S chief constable Peter Fahy has announced a 'significant increase' in reported rape cases.
Reports of such attacks across the county increased from 110 between April 2002 and April 2003 to 185 between April 2003 and April this year.
And Mr Fahy says a 'common theme' between rapists and their victims is the consumption of alcohol.
He told a meeting of the police authority: 'On the face of it they are still relatively low numbers but on the other hand we do not know if there is under reporting.
'In the vast majority of rapes the perpetrator is known to the victim, there is a theme of expartners, ex-boyfriends.'
But he added: 'Sadly, a common theme between the victims and perpetrators is that they have consumed alcohol.
'People meeting people in licensed pubs and then walking home and sadly, we get a different version from the man and the woman.
'There is a worrying trend on the basis of what we see as a continuing misuse of alcohol.'
Dr Helen Jones, spokeswoman for Truth About Rape, which aims to raise awareness about how the Criminal Justice System is 'failing' rape victims, said: 'To a certain extent he is right. Rapes do occur when people have been out drinking, whether in pubs or clubs.
'But we shouldn't lay the blame on alcohol or women drinking alcohol. Women should still be able to go out for a drink without being raped. Rape is not women's responsibility. Women should not be held responsible for men's actions.'
Dr Jones, a criminologist at Manchester Metropolitan University, added: 'It's very useful that he's making a comment on rape in the first place because quite often chief constables will make a comment on theft, or violence, but not mention rape.'
Explaining the increase he explained: 'In some part women may have more confidence that the police will do something about it. We know there are far more rapes committed than are reported.
'The majority of rapes do occur between people who know each other. That is borne out by Home Office research and more informal research by rape crisis groups.
'It's great Mr Fahy's actually identified that it's not the dangerous stranger women should be wary of. Perhaps where he needs to reconsider his remarks is laying the blame of rape at alcohol's door rather than on men.
'We need to have men behaving more responsibly. If we continue to blame alcohol or drugs or whatever it might be we're just misleading ourselves.'