On Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week we must recognise the epidemic of violence women face in this country.
Last week I was humbled and privileged to open the Petitions committee debate on support for victims of stalking.
I spoke about the struggle women are greeted with when they report instances of stalking to the police.
I highlighted the discrepancy that if you are mugged or burgled you are not asked to provide evidence, but if you are a victim of stalking you are. In essence, if you are a victim of stalking the onus ludicrously is put on you.
This is one of many instances where women are not being protected from violence but women are also being deeply failed by those who we would expect to support us in the upholding of the law.
Following what was revealed by the Independent Office for Police Conduct investigation into misconduct at Charing Cross Police Station last week, how can women trust the police to take allegations of sexual crimes seriously when police officers are joking about threatening to rape each other when they are on duty?
It's no surprise that when women approach the police for support, they are often turned away, made to feel like they are wasting police time.
Its clear as day that women are being let down by the government and the police and the latest Government figures on the prosecutions of rape paint a harrowing picture.
The number of suspects authorised to be charged by the CPS has decreased by 46% compared to 2016.
Despite last year registering the highest number of rape and sexual offences on record, charging for those offences has plummeted. Last year a record 61,158 rape reports were made to the police. However the CPS only charged 88 more suspects in 2020/21 than in the previous year.
Shockingly, just 0.6% of adult rape cases recorded to police result in a charge. Of the total number of rapes, both reported and unreported, just 1.5% result in a conviction.
The number of rape convictions in 2020/21 was 1,109. This is down from 1439 on the previous year and represents the lowest number on record.
That is in effect, the decriminalisation of rape.
At the current rate of progress, it will take the CPS 29 years to meet their own target to return to 2016 charging levels.
Troublingly, 61% of investigations are closed because the victim does not support further police action. That represents an increase of 4% compared to 2019.
The average time from when a rape case is referred by the police to the CPS charging decision has risen considerably from 155 days at the start of 2020/21 to 170 days at year end - over four times as long as the time taken for all crimes.
A rape victim’s experience of the criminal justice system from report to trial completion is around 3 times as long as the average across all other crime types (2.4 years vs 312 days).
Rape victims have to wait 12 times as long from report to a charging decision compared with the average across other crime types (33 days vs 419 days).
This indicates a worrying lack of action to address the many barriers to justice facing survivors, including police and prosecutors’ myths and stereotypes around victim credibility, and discriminatory treatment of Black and minoritised women. In essence, the system is so broken that it is forcing victims out.
Women want to feel safe & we don’t. On Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week we must recognise the epidemic of violence women face in this country.
IF YOU HAVE BEEN THE VICTIM OF VIOLENCE OR KNOW SOMEONE WHO IS AT RISK, SUPPORT IS AVAILABLE:
Swansea Women's Aid
24 Hour Helpline
For free confidential support and advice, contact our helpline on: 01792 644683
Live fear free
Helpline open 24/7 to listen to and support victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence.
0808 80 10 800
A charitable housing association that provides accommodation and support to women across Wales.