In Britain, one in five women is a victim of sexual assault - and underreporting is often considered one of the biggest barriers to justice in these cases. But it has been revealed that even when women do report the crimes, they are not always being recorded by police.
According to the police watchdog, hundreds of alleged sex crimes – including rape – are not being documented. After an inspection of three out of 43 police forces in England, in two police force areas crime recording was deemed “inadequate” and almost 45,000 reported offences – approximately one in five – were not being logged properly.
The failings by Thames Valley and North Yorkshire police forces have shown that the extent of crime in England and Wales has been substantially underestimated in official figures. Thirty-five thousand crimes in Thames Valley were not recorded properly, and they included common assault, harassment, malicious communication and offences as serious as domestic violence and rape.
We already know about the difficulties women face coming forward and then being vindicated in cases of sexual assault, rape and domestic violence
It gets worse – some of the rapes that had been reported were misclassified as sexual assaults and nine had not been recorded at all. And because they weren’t recorded, the nine cases were not investigated.
In North Yorkshire, police failed to record an estimated 9,200 reported crimes a year, also including sexual offences, domestic abuse and rape. In one harrowing case, they cancelled a report from a victim who had been suffering from mental illness and she went on to be attacked again by the same man.
John Campbell, deputy chief constable of Thames Valley, said the report made for “unwelcome reading” while Lisa Winward, deputy chief constable of North Yorkshire, said that the force was improving. “Every call we answer is logged; nothing is ignored” she said.
Last year alone, around 10 per cent of women aged 16 to 24 experienced domestic violence in the UK, and it still remains one of the least likely crimes to be reported. We already know about the difficulties women face coming forward, being believed and then being vindicated in cases of sexual assault, rape and domestic violence. Now it appears that even when women do find the strength to come forward, the already slim chances at justice are compromised before we even have a chance.