Rape should no longer be considered a 'dirty' word 

 

Following the recent gang rape and murder of a student in Delhi and worldwide condemnation of the Indian authorities' failure to tackle the crisis, Britain is faced with a rape crisis of its own.

One in 30 rape suspects is convicted

According to new government statistics, fewer than one rape victim in 30 can expect to see their attacker brought to justice.

The report, published by the Ministry of Justice, the Home Office and the Office for National Statistics, is the first government overview of sexual offending in the UK.

Up to half a million people are victims of sex crimes each year, but only a small proportion are reported to the police - and even fewer result in a conviction.

Under-reporting of sex crimes

Despite the scale of sex offending, the bulk of it continues to go unreported to the police, the health services and other agencies due to the unwillingness of victims to speak out.

Although 90 percent of rape victims claimed that they knew their attacker, only 15 percent reported them to the police. 

"Frequently cited reasons for not reporting the crime were that it was 'embarrassing'...the incident was 'too trivial' or that they saw it as a 'private/family matter and not police business,'" the report says.

Politicians and campaigners are said to be appalled by the "dreadful" findings in the report. A spokeswoman for Rape Crisis said, "...women know that they would have to put themselves through a system which is very traumatic and are likely to come out at the other end with no justice."

Javed Khan, chief executive of Victim Support, built on this theme. "Much more needs to be done to encourage rape victims to report incidents - such as promoting high-quality support services to help victims move on with their lives and ensuring that we shift the rape 'blame culture' from victims to offenders."

Cultural shift needed to tackle rape crisis

The taboo nature of being a victim of a sex crime and the reluctance to report a sex offence are both critical factors. As the Jimmy Savile scandal has shown, perpetrators are often shielded from capture and punishment by victims' shame and fear of being disbelieved. This is no less relevant for a partner, family member or so-called friend.

Changes in police and legal procedure are much needed, but there is also a cultural issue underpinning the problem. Britain is not India, but its approach to the successful prosecution of sex crimes still leaves a lot to be desired.

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