A shocking 80 per cent of women who are raped or sexually assaulted do not report it to the police, new figures suggest.
The alarming statistic has been widely blamed on a lack of faith in the judicial system amid a sharp decline in conviction rates.
Research commissioned by Channel 4’s Dispatches found 36 per cent of women surveyed had experienced some form of sexual assault or rape, with almost one third (31 per cent) saying they have been a victim three or more times.
One victim told Dispatches she was sexually assaulted in a pub toilet on a night out. But her case did not make it to the CPS because it did not meet the evidential threshold for a charging decision. A file photo is used above
Despite the staggeringly high rate of sexual violence, 80 per cent did not report the most recent incident to the police, with just 31 per cent of women surveyed saying they were confident that the judicial system in England and Wales achieves justice for victims of sexual assault or rape.
Less than half of women (49 per cent) who reported already having been a victim of sexual assault said they would be likely to report an assault to the police if they were to experience another.
It comes in the aftermath of the rape and murder of Sarah Everard, 33, by serving Met Police officer Wayne Couzens.
Man jailed after he followed girl, 16, and raped her in street
A man who raped a 16-year-old girl in the street after following her off a bus was jailed for nine years.
Michael Murray assaulted the girl in Bristol last January in what the judge described as a ‘cold and calculated attack’ which involved significant planning.
The Channel 4 Dispatches programme shows police bodycam footage of Murray’s arrest after the victim gave a detailed description of her attacker and he was identified from CCTV footage.
He pleaded guilty to rape at Bristol Crown Court in April 2020.
He also admitted a second charge of common assault on another woman, who he had struck in the face with a cigarette lighter after she had rebuffed his advances.
Murray was given indefinite restraining orders in relation to both victims and will remain on the sex offenders register indefinitely.
Conservative MP Caroline Nokes, chairman of the Commons women and equalities committee, branded the findings ‘disastrous’.
She told a debate on Channel 4 that will be aired after tonight’s programme: ‘This Government does have a problem with women. It’s incumbent on people like me to do the work and stand up to the Government and say, “We’re not doing enough.”
‘We need cultural change from the outset,’ she added.
‘We need to look at schools, colleges and universities, and at young people’s understanding of consent. Women aren’t getting justice.’
Asked whether the Conservative Government has cut too far in terms of police and CPS services, she said: ‘I think what we’ve seen for women has been absolutely disastrous – of course I regret that.’
Only 3 per cent of rapes reported in 2019/20 led to a suspect being charged – compared to 13 per cent in 2015/16.
Home Secretary Priti Patel has vowed to reverse the trend, admitting the Government is ‘deeply ashamed’ by the state of rape justice.
One victim told Dispatches she was sexually assaulted in a pub toilet on a night out.
But her case did not make it to the CPS because it did not meet the evidential threshold for a charging decision.
The victim, identified only as Debbie, said: ‘I have had quite a few panic attacks. They [the police] wanted my phone.
‘I knew that they were doing it to get more information, but I also felt like I was a little bit on trial, thinking, “Are they looking at my life?” and “What are they looking potentially for?” That felt very intrusive. Really, really intrusive.
‘I actually said, “Do you know what, I wish I hadn’t reported it,” because it affects your life so much.’
Temporary Chief Constable Sarah Crew, the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) lead for rape and adult sexual offences, said the justice system was not ‘convicting enough offenders’ and that ‘too few victims are getting justice’. She added: ‘We know we have work to do to gain back the trust of victims.
‘With the increased number of those reporting rape and sexual assault to the police, we understand that now, more than ever, is our time to work across the criminal justice system to get the best outcomes for victims.’
Ex-chief prosecutor Nazir Afzal said: ‘We’re in a perfect storm. We have fewer police officers, fewer prosecutors, courts have been closed and we have a massive backlog. People aren’t getting anywhere near the service they deserve and there’s no excuse for it.
‘The CPS goes for low-hanging fruit – stranger rapes, things that are easy to prosecute – so they’ll pursue those.
‘More difficult cases – quite often cases involving relationships – are more challenging, so that’s maybe one of the reasons why they don’t want to prosecute those.’
The research, carried out by BMG for Channel 4, surveyed 2,293 people, with 1,513 of those polled being female.
n Rape – Who’s on Trial? Dispatches is on Channel 4 at 9pm tonight, followed by The Rape Debate: Who’s on Trial? at 10.30pm.