Reported rapes double following high-profile police investigations into historic sex abuse

Rise in number of rape allegations may indicate improvement in police recording crimes, rather than increase in attacks

Hayden Smith
Thursday 13 October 2016 00:28 BST
Increase in recorded rape allegations shows change in attitude to reporting sex rimes, campaigners say
Increase in recorded rape allegations shows change in attitude to reporting sex rimes, campaigners say (iStock)

The number of alleged rapes recorded by police has more than doubled in less than four years, figures show.

A spike in reports of sexual offences has been seen following high-profile investigations including Operation Yewtree, which was launched in 2012 in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal.

Forces in England and Wales logged 35,798 alleged rape offences in the year to the end of March 2016 - a 124 per cent increase compared to the 16,012 recorded in the 12 months ending in December 2012.

The figures were cited in 42 local area digests which are published by the Rape Monitoring Group and draw together a range of official data.

Rises in the numbers of rapes being recorded may not be due to an increase in prevalence, but the result of improvements in how the police record crimes, the reports said.

Or they may mean that victims have an increased understanding that a crime has been committed, or feel more confident in being believed when reporting what happened to them, the digests added.

They went on: “As an example, it may be that in the wake of publicity associated with the late Jimmy Savile and other historical abuse cases, more adult survivors of child sexual abuse, as well as more recent victims, have felt empowered to come forward to tell the police about sexual abuse.”

Elsewhere, figures on outcomes for alleged adult and child rape offences recorded in 2015/16 showed one in four (25 per cent) were logged as having “evidential difficulties” where the victim “does not support action”.

In 16 per cent there were evidential difficulties where the victim supported action. A charge or summons was issued in 7 per cent of cases, while 45 per cent of recorded crimes had not yet been assigned an outcome.

Sarah Green, co-director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, 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.”

She said it was “notable” that a quarter of cases are closed within the same year because of “evidence difficulties”, adding: “We need a better breakdown on that.”

She went on: “Finally, and most importantly - these 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 survivors for many years.”

Wendy Williams, chair of the monitoring group, said it was the fourth year it has released data on rape.

She said: “The intention for the release of these digests is to encourage a more thorough analysis of how rape is dealt with throughout the criminal justice process.

“We know that the data can only provide one part of the performance picture on rape; numbers alone cannot tell the full story and we have worked hard to provide context and understanding.

“We urge those involved in preventing and supporting victims of rape to read the digest for their local area, to prompt discussions about what needs to improve.”

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