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Britain’s Justice System Doesn’t Care About Sexual Assault Victims

TRIGGER WARNING: Sexual Assault

Between July 2022 and June 2023, 68109 rapes were recorded by police. Within that 12-month period, charges had only been brought against just 2.2% of cases. This does not necessarily mean they were convicted. Of these cases, victims face record waiting times of over 2 years to be completed in court. 

(Statistics from Rape Crisis England)


The British Justice system is consistently failing sexual assault victims and the statistics speak for themselves. Recorded numbers of rape complaints continue to soar and yet the convictions never seem to rise despite the promises of the British government. Victim support charities have been crying out for reform on this issue for years yet without government action the words of representatives prove to be nothing more than empty. 


In an attempt to push up the number of convictions, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has resulted in making fewer referrals for cases that are considered ‘weak’ with evidence. This means even with the illusion of higher conviction rates, police are referring half as many cases for prosecution. 


With 5 out of 6 women and 4 out of 5 men not reporting their experiences due to a lack of faith in the police and the justice system taking action to deliver them justice. This decrease in referrals for prosecution does nothing to help aid in this problem. Even more survivors are withdrawing their complaints once the process has begun due to an extreme invasion of privacy in what the CPS is calling ‘appropriate collection of evidence’. This includes handing over all mobile devices and being subjected to a full download of content. If victims refuse, their case is almost immediately dropped, essentially meaning that police deliver an impossible ultimatum to these already traumatised individuals - allow yourself to be violated all over again without the promise of convictions or be complacent to never receive justice.


Invasion of privacy does not end there, compliance for ‘third party materials’ to be reviewed is also imperative for many cases to be referred for persecution. These include but are not limited to medical and social services records. All of these invasions of personal information essentially boil down to finding something to question the credibility of the victim’s report. 


Now let’s say that victims endure all of that and get their case into court, after a long wait time which no doubt was spent desperately trying to heal and recover from their traumatic experiences, victims then face reliving their experiences in the courtroom where they will find little sympathy or delicacy in the handling of their trauma. In the courtroom, victims might expect to see the investigation of the defendant, yet often they find that the trial is more of an investigation of themselves. Rape and assault myths are thrown around the courtroom including questioning of what the victim was wearing and how much alcohol they had consumed. 


Cases where the victim knew their assailant or worse they were in a relationship with their assailant often face even more scrutiny as the culture of the criminal justice system still views rape as mostly commonly occurring in dark alleys with strangers holding them down while they scream. Charities have fought long and hard to dispel this myth, producing statistics to show that 6 out of 7 women being raped by someone they know and 1 out of 2 women being raped by someone they are in a relationship with. Even with this proven evidence, justice systems are still uncomfortable accepting this narrative. 


Ultimately, with such a lack of convictions for rape and other sex crimes, offenders have little to discourage them from re-offending. Thus, the cycle continues as rapists roam the streets free from fear of retribution. 


Campaigns from charities continue to soar in hopes of evoking change within the broken system, as the public cries out for reform, but after reviewing the evidence there is little to suggest that most victims will receive the justice they so truly deserve.  


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