Explain possible reasons for low reporting rate

Explain the
discrepancy between number of recorded offences and actual incidence on sexual

The aim of this essay is to explain the discrepancy between
number of recorded sexual offences and actual incidence, and possible reasons
for low reporting rate on sexual violence. 

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Sexual violence refers to “any unwanted sexual act or
activity” (Rape Crisis, 2015). There are many different kinds of sexual
violence, including rape, sexual assault, child sexual abuse, sexual
harassment, rape within marriage or relationships, forced marriage, so-called
honour-based violence, female genital mutilation, trafficking, sexual
exploitation, and ritual abuse. In addition, the overall definition of sexual
or indecent assault refers to “an act of physical, psychological and emotional
violation, in the form of a sexual act, inflicted upon someone without their
consent” (Rape Crisis, 2015). It can involve forcing or manipulating someone to
witness or participate in any sexual acts. Reporting is an important aspect of
the Criminal Justice process but it is mostly influenced by micro
characteristics, such as crime characteristics, victim and offender. There are
few factors that have a significant impact on the low rate of reporting sexual
assaults and conviction for them.  For
example, the attitudes to rape in the legal context, victim-blaming attitudes
and limits to the recognition of consent.

According to the final report of an inspection of crime data
integrity in police forces in England and Wales (2014), 26 % of all sexual
offences, including rape, reported to police were not recorded as crimes. Even
if crimes were correctly recorded, many were removed or cancelled as recorded
crimes for no good reason (HMIC, 2014). Furthermore, Stanko (2011) also identified two wide gaps – the first one
between rape that “happens to people” and the rape allegations reported to
police, and the second one in which these allegations lead to conviction of
perpetrator. Following this,  89 % of
rapes are not reported and 38 % of the sexual assault victims over 16 years old
inform no one about it (The Stern Review, 2010). In addition to this, the
official statistics bulletin on sexual violence released by the Ministry of
Justice (MoJ), Office for National Statistics (ONS) and Home Office (2013),  stated that “nearly half a million adults are
sexually assaulted in England and Wales each year” and “only around 15% of
those who experience sexual violence choose to report to the police”.  This means that sexual offences are a very
small proportion of all recorded crimes, as it is about 2 % of all offences and
about 1.75 % of all persons found guilty of sexual violence. Moreover,
conviction rates for rape are low comparing with other crimes, as only 5.7% of
reported rape cases lead to conviction of the perpetrator (Kelly et al, 2005).  It was also found that the reconviction for
such offences is “comparatively low” (Hood et al., 2002). In consequence, the
statistics for recorded crimes provide an incomplete picture because they
represent only the crimes that were brought to the attention of the police. These
numbers of unrecorded or wrongly designated no-crime incidents represent not a
single event, but a lasting legacy – and above all, it also represents a
miscarriage of justice, the failure of juridical system.

Firstly, the rape culture has a significant impact on almost
all factors that causing to not report sexual offences by victims. This
phenomenon manifests itself  in societies
through the acceptance of rapes as an everyday occurrence and can be increased
by “police apathy in handling rape cases, as well as victim blaming, reluctance
by authorities to go against patriarchal cultural norms, as well as fears of
stigmatization suffered by rape victims and their families” (Parenti, 2005,
p.73). Other factors, such as inconvenience of reporting incident, dealing with
the incident privately or reporting it to other authorities also have an impact
on sexual violence being unreported (British Crime Survey, 2007). For many
survivors of sexual violence, especially within societies where rape is
pervasive and normalized due to societal attitudes, the process of building
courage to report a sexual offence can be terrifying. According to the 2014
HMIC report, only 15 % of survivors report the crime to the police.

Moreover, rape culture perpetuates particular rape myths
that are codified into law – which means that rape culture encourage sexual
violence and makes rape perceived as “rough sex”, for example,  as well as, blaming victim for inviting
sexual violence. Nicoletti (2005) stated that rape myths are social messages
about assumed predefined female gender roles in terms of sexual behaviour.  These descriptive or prescriptive beliefs
about rape and its causes, context, consequences, perpetrators, victims and
their interaction serve to “deny, downplay or justify sexual violence that men
commit against women “(Bowling, 1998, p. 14). Rape myths may vary across
cultures but there were four general types of rape myths identified, such as
“only certain types of women get raped”, “blame the victim for their rape”,
“exonerate perpetrators and express disbelief in claims of rape” (Bohner et al,
2009). According to this, these beliefs may have an impact on why the victim
may be scared to report the incident to police due to fear of being judged,
disbelieved and blamed for what happened. 
The 2014 HMIC report supports these statements; it was found that 7% of
all failures to record crimes were due to police disbelieving the victim –which
usually occurs in relation to particular types of crimes, including incidences
of sexual violence (HMIC, 2014). However, due to inadequate supervision, which
is one of the common reasons for crime wrongly unrecorded, the proportion of
cases where victim is disbelieved may be higher in reality. Being disbelieved
is devastating for the survivor of sexual abuse as it is not only denying the
victim a justice, but also the access to the support and help he or she
needs.  This factor, according to the
HMIC report (2014), usually made a victim to never try to report the incident
again.  It is also represents the
failings of public faith in the police force in terms of protecting the
vulnerable individuals in the communities, especially in those affected by
different forms of institutional prejudice, such as LGBT people or sex workers.
In consequence, it is hard to build their confidence and encourage victims to
come forward and report the crime to the service that let them down by making
them feel scared and disbelieved.  The
impact of failing like these is enormous.

Rape myths have a significant impact on policing as it
involves the use of discretion and decision-making based on common sense
understandings of law, victims and offenders. These values are heavily influenced
on personal views and beliefs about gender, which means that there may be a
problem with investigating rape and treatment of victims, due to these
beliefs.  They aim to undermine
credibility of the victim and make her/him blameworthy in terms of sexual
behaviour and their communication of consent (Adler, 1987).  This also means that those who embrace such
stereotypes may interview victims in some aggressive style of questioning that
communicates this mistrust. In consequence, this may also be a reason why a
survivor would not decide to report sexual violence to avoid humiliation.

Another problem is the limit to recognize consent as another
rape myth is that consent must be communicated in a certain way, for example,
by behaviour before the rape (including style of dress or intimacy with the
perpetrator). This has a big impact on the early stages of the investigation as
the victim may be disbelieved and crime would not be recorded.  However, the vulnerabilities of the victims,
such as their age or mental health, also play role as they lead to reduced
capacity to say “no” and may lead to the rape myth of consent.  In addition to this, if the victim is under
the influence of drugs or alcohol – she may have diminished ability to say
“no”.  On the other hand, the
stereotypical understanding about the sexual behaviour of females who get so
drunk as to not be able to say “no” may occur. However, the law protects the
victim to some extent from this this by saying that it may not be reasonable
for the suspect to assume consent if the victim was so drunk. On the other hand,
the suspect cannot rely on his drunkenness as a defence. If he was so drunk as
not to be able to form reasonable view on whether consent had been given that
is no reason to protect them from the consequences.  Furthermore, The Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence
Act. 1999 restricts use of sexual history evidence but if defence wish to
question complainant about their sexual history, they have to apply for the
access to it. Kelly et al. (2006) found that these applications are not being
made often and judges do not stop unauthorised questioning, as well as
barristers who also prefer to avoid requesting sexual history of victim to use stereotypical
beliefs of rape instead. These findings are supporting the statement that the
rape myths are deeply codified into law and justice sytem.