Researchers Find Rape Cases Underreported in United Kingdom
Wednesday, November 4, 2009 4:00 PM

A recent report from researchers at the University of Surrey’s Department of Psychology estimates that up to 90% of rapes go unreported in the United Kingdom, and up to 94% of the reported cases fail to reach conviction. Approximately 14,000 cases were reported to police in 2008, but researchers estimate the actual number of assaults to be as much as seven times higher. Underreporting continues to be a problem despite all UK police forces being encouraged to create sexual violence action plans and to set up Sexual Assault Referral Centres by 2011.

Researchers cite prevailing public attitudes about sexual assault as the main cause of high attrition rates in rape cases. Rape victims often fear not being believed by police, or being blamed for allowing the assault to happen. The majority of rapes involve a victim and attacker who know each other, but police, prosecutors, and jurors are hesitant to pursue a conviction unless the victim’s story fits the media-driven stereotype of stranger rape.

The researchers recommend improving public awareness of rape, emphasizing the fact that most rapes involve situations in which the victim and attacker are acquaintances. Correcting inaccurate stereotypes about sexual assault would encourage more victims to come forward, and increase the likelihood of reported cases reaching convictions.

The researchers’ findings are compiled in Rape: Challenging Contemporary Thinking, edited by Miranda Horvath and Jennifer Brown.

Compiled from: "Researchers From the University of Surrey Have Revealed That Commonly-Held Attitudes Towards Rape Are Stopping Women Reporting Incidents of Sexual Assault and Stopping Attackers from Being Convicted," Media-Newswire (20 October 2009).