Definition of Sexual Violence
Based on reports by the World Health Organization (WHO), sexual violence takes place in many societies around the world. Sexual violence has a profound impact on the physical health of the victims and their mental peacefulness. It can also profoundly impact the victims’ social well-being. Sexual violence can be aimed at both women and men, and take place inside a family or in any other place like the workplace, school, medical centre, police station, college, street, etc. Sexual violence includes acts that range from verbal harassment to unwanted sexual advances. In many societies, very few sexual victims report the incidents to the police.
According to the UK government guidelines, sexual violence is any treatment with sexual nature which is not wanted and occurs without consent. Any abuser commits a crime if they abuse others physically, verbally, online, and if they exploit or control another person. Sexual violence can be any kind of rape or sexual assault and all the victims of all kinds of sexual violence in the UK should get support and advice.
Low Statistics of Reporting Crime
New figures of sexual violence in England and Wales are shocking, because fewer than one in sixty rape cases reported to the Police in England and Wales lead to charges. In 2020, of the 52,210 recorded cases, only 843 resulted in a charge being made, which is only 1.6%. It means that rape cases are not taken that seriously and do not bring offenders to justice. One of the main reasons for the delay has been an increasingly lengthy investigation and trial process in England and Wales.
As nearly all victims of sexual violence are women, the number of cases brought to court shows that the criminal justice system in England and Wales has been failing women in UK society. The long and wearisome process has brought few sexual violence offenders to justice; so many victims do not even report their cases. The Crown Prosecution Service saw its budget cut by 25% recently and its staff reduced by 30%, which could be the main reasons for the long process of sexual violence cases taken to court.
Sexual Violence Victims Wait Years for their Court Case
The Labour Party has accused the Conservative government of letting down victims of sexual violence on every front. According to the official statements, some sexual violence victims have waited several years for their time in court. Meanwhile, they receive no care, no follow-ups, no compassion, and see no action from ministers. Some victims feel they are being left alone and many victims cannot move on from what happened to them.
According to figures in the year to March 2020, less than two percent of sexual violence cases recorded by the police have led to a suspect being charged or summoned. Official timelines explain that the average number of days it takes for the outcome of a reported sexual violence crime to be assigned as an offence in England and Wales is longer than for all other crimes. For example, the time taken for the outcome of a robbery being assigned is twenty-one days on average, but for a sexual violence crime, this is seventy-seven days.
The Rights of Crime Victims Are Not Upheld
According to groups representing victims of sexual violence in England and Wales, rape prosecutions have failed to meaningfully engage with victims who must be consulted. The UK Justice system treats victims of sexual violence like bystanders amid many other crime victims. A report by the victims’ commissioner has concluded that victims of any type of crime should not be brought to court to talk about what they have personally suffered as if they were bystanders. The report has called for victims to be given statutory rights to make representation at court. England and Wales fail to provide functional victim participatory rights in comparison to other countries, such as the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Although in the revised victims’ code, victims of any crime, including sexual violence in England and Wales, have the right to information, support, and some procedural rights, those rights have not been enforceable and were practised only once in a while.
Pre-Record for Cross-Examination Is Needed
The victims’ commissioner has stated that sexual violence victims in England and Wales should be able to pre-record evidence for cross-examinations so that they do not have to face perpetrators in court. Pre-records will also ease stressful waits before their trials for those who have experienced sexual assault. Based on a survey, every victim waiting to appear in court said how scared they were to come face-to-face with the defendants.
Waiting years before cross-examination can be traumatising for rape victims, and in many cases, results in withdrawal from prosecution. According to Home Office figures, 43% of rape cases withdrew from prosecution in the nine months to December 2020. So pre-recording will decrease the waiting time and lower the level of stress for victims. The Home Office suggested that some improvements will be considered for courts that will include protective screens, video links, and more separate waiting rooms, in addition to pre-recording the cross-examination to strengthen the rights of victims.
Many Rape Attacks Are Not Reported Due to Embarrassment, Fear
Sexual violence has always been a difficult crime to prove, but last year up to March 2020, it had the lowest level of convictions on record in England and Wales. Based on a report, during the twelve months ending in March 2020, 99% of rapes reported to the police resulted in no legal proceedings against the alleged offenders in England and Wales. Although, after the Jimmy Savile cases came to light, the number of sexual violence cases reported to the police in England and Wales tripled since 2012, but the victims’ courage has not been rewarded.
Some alleged attackers have multiple cases brought against them, but very few are convicted. Sexual violence is a highly under-reported crime due to embarrassment, fear of not being believed, avoidance of court appearances, long waiting periods, and also being asked not to contact family and friends for a time. The true number of rape crimes is much higher than what is reported and it is estimated to be as high as 107,000 every year in England and Wales, including 95,000 women and 12,000 men.
Sexual violence is a crime when someone, a woman or a man, is abused physically or verbally by others or approached without the person’s consent. It has a deep effect on the victims’ lives and can impact their physical and mental wellbeing. In England and Wales, it is estimated that there are thousands of cases every year, but only half are reported to the police. Among the reported cases, very few are convicted in courts after a long waiting period. The UK criminal justice system has failed to address the issue properly and many victims who take the courage to report the cases, withdraw from prosecutions.
Experts claim that austerity policies, which have resulted in police budget cuts and reductions in the number of court staff, add to the long process, but policing and the justice procedure also disappoints the victims. It is suggested that victims can be helped by pre-recording their cross-examination to reduce waiting time and stress, and also to help them by treating them as victims, rather than like victims are on trial.