Huge rise in reported rapes - but what response do survivors get?

EVAW and Rape Crisis England and Wales highlight urgent need for better funding of specialist support services.

Responding to the publication today (13 October 2016) of new figures on the reporting and prosecution of rape the EVAW Coalition and Rape Crisis England and Wales drew attention to persistent regional variations and to the urgent need for better funding of specialist support services.

End Violence Against Women Coalition Co-Director Sarah Green said:

“The ongoing enormous rise in victims reporting rape to the police is stark and shows that the shame around this abuse may be declining and the desire to seek justice increasing. Police, courts, Government and everyone in frontline services and public life should do everything to keep driving this, including speaking out against victim blaming attitudes.

“The figures in the report show regional variation in whether or not cases go through to a verdict. This needs addressing by all chief constables, PCC’s and the CPS. It is also notable that a quarter of cases are closed within the same year because of ‘evidence difficulties’. We would welcome a better breakdown on why that is.

“Most importantly, the figures tell us yet again that rape of adults and children is not a marginal or rare crime – it is truly very common and we know its impact can stay with victims and survivors for many years. These numbers alert us to the need to have well-funded specialist support services like Rape Crisis Centres in our local communities which victims and survivors can access at any point in their lives when they need to. Rape Crisis counselling services are often small charities and currently have to seek funding from local councils, police and crime commissioners, health bodies and others. We are worried that some of these commissioners do not understand well enough the vital, life-saving service they provide and how generic or statutory services often cannot replicate it. Let’s see all of these commissioners commit to ensuring every survivor can always access the support they need.”

A spokesperson for Rape Crisis England and Wales said:

“Rape Crisis welcomes the HMIC report and ongoing commitment to transparency and scrutiny of the handling of sexual offences by the police.

“The increase in recorded rapes that today’s figures reveal mirror the demand that Rape Crisis Centres are experiencing. Our centres responded to 171,000 helpline calls in 2015 – 2016, an average of over 3,000 a week.  At the end of March 2016 there were over 4,000 service users waiting to access our specialist services.

“It is positive that more sexual violence victims and survivors are coming forward to seek support and justice as sexual offences are under-reported in comparison to other crimes. Today’s figures suggest there have been some improvements in the way police forces record sexual offences.

“However, Rape Crisis is concerned that the rise in recorded rapes of children may in fact reflect an increase in the number of adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse reporting to the police. It is not easy to evidence this from the published data because reported offences continue to be recorded by the police using the age at the time the offence took place, not the age at the time of reporting. Rape Crisis is calling for a change to the way this is recorded as adult survivors of child sexual abuse have been ‘hidden’ for far too long and continue to be unseen within published statistics.”

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