Rape victims 'should make report'
Rape victims must be encouraged to report attacks but should understand the difficulties in securing convictions, a police chief has said.
Victims should have the confidence to report attacks, said Deputy Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt, the Association of Chief Police Officers national lead for adult sexual offences.
"We need to be honest about the challenges that are faced in investigating and prosecuting rape," he said.
Police will do everything they can to ensure victims get the support they need when reporting a rape or sexual offence, according to Mr Hewitt.
"We will thoroughly investigate the offence and put all our efforts into ensuring justice is done. We want to support those who are victims of these crimes and do all we can to increase reporting levels," he said.
"The conviction rate is at an all-time high and this is down to the hard work of police, prosecutors and other agencies working together to develop victim-focused approaches and take cases through the courts. But, despite the bravery and tenacity of the victims who do go through the process, a third of rape prosecutions still don't end in a conviction.
"That can put people off reporting because they think it isn't worth it. I really want to show people this week that victims should have the confidence to report. It triggers a full investigation into the offence but also means that victims are able to access medical treatment and support services to help them cope with the experience.
"We are calling for more people who experience sexual offences or rape to report them to us so that we can help them get the help that they need but also so we can do everything we can to stop it happening again - to them or anyone else. But we also have a responsibility to be honest about the fact that reporting and going through the court process may not end in a conviction."
In 2012-13 a total of 3,692 rape prosecutions were brought with 63.2% resulting in convictions, a 5.5% increase from 2008-9.
Reporting of sexual offences to the police is up 9% this year, the largest increase since current recording standards began.
The public debate about sex offences, particularly non-recent child abuse, may have been responsible for the increase.
Jordan Hart, an 18-year-old rape survivor whose attacker was jailed for 11 years, has waived her anonymity to support the campaign and encourage more women and men who are victims of rape to report it to the police.
"Reporting to the police gave me peace of mind, knowing I hadn't been beaten by him. I was supported by my Soit (Sexual Offence Investigative Techniques) officer who gave me advice, guidance, explained what was going to happen and how long it would take. I didn't do anything alone," she said.
In the coming week, police forces will be running campaigns on communicating how they deal with rape and sexual offences, the support that victims should expect and the realities of the judicial process in dealing with this type of offence.
Mr Hewitt will also be taking to Twitter to answer questions about how the police can better deal with these crimes directly.
Javed Khan, chief executive of Victim Support, said: "Victims' needs must come first in any approach to dealing with rape. They need to know they will be taken seriously, treated sensitively by all criminal justice agencies, and given access to specialist support services as and when they need them.
"It takes a great deal of courage for victims to come forward but their confidence to do so is vital in bringing perpetrators to justice."
Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders said: "It is vital that victims feel confident that if they report rape or sexual offending to the police, their case will be dealt with thoroughly and sensitively and that they will be supported throughout the process.
"This is why communication with victims is so important and why the CPS has rolled out specialist units dedicated to handling these cases, across the country. These units are staffed by trained prosecutors with expertise in handling rape cases, including detailed understanding of the psychological effects of sexual violence, how to challenge the associated myths and stereotypes and, importantly, ensuring victims are given the support they deserve."
People wishing to report a sexual offence or rape to the police can call 101, or 999 in an emergency.