Two years on from the government’s End-to-End Rape Review, far too many victims and survivors of rape continue to be failed. Today we have launched a new report in collaboration with Centre for Women’s Justice, the End Violence Against Women Coalition and Imkaan detailing what has changed since the review.
The Rape Review arose following a catastrophic decline in rape prosecutions which dropped to the lowest on record and led women’s groups to declare the effective decriminalisation of rape. In the Review, the government acknowledged that victims of rape are being failed, made an unprecedented apology to victims and survivors and committed to a series of actions to address this problem, in a timeframe leading up to June 2023.
Following our landmark joint report in 2020The Decriminalisation of Rape: Why the justice system is failing rape survivors and what needs to change, we have now set out an assessment of the Government’s progress in achieving the aims of its Rape Review Action Plan, as well as highlighting what more is required to transform the current appalling treatment of rape victims and survivors:
- Despite marginal progress, charging, prosecution and conviction rates still fall short of the government’s own targets
- Rape scorecards, designed to improve transparency and accountability, are difficult to use effectively and still fail to incorporate and analyse different demographics of victims within the criminal justice system
- There is ongoing failure to better understand who does and does not access the criminal justice system and further investigate the experiences of Black and minoritised victim-survivors
- Much hope rests in the implementation of Operation Soteria, but its progress is threatened by uncertainty around future funding and ongoing academic input
- The Government must use the legislative opportunity of the Victims and Prisoners Bill to deliver improvements in the criminal justice system’s treatment of rape survivors
- There remains a lack of political commitment to preventing rape and sexual abuse in the first place and exploring what victims and survivors want to support their recovery
We recognise some ‘green shoots’ of positive change in several areas, such as the establishment of the 24/7 Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Line run by Rape Crisis England & Wales, steps towards specialist rape courts, and a reduction in the length of time some forces retain victims’ mobile phones. But the reality remains dire for far too many women and girls, in a context of underfunded specialist support services, routinely and unnecessarily invasive investigations of victims, low perpetrator charging levels and extensive court backlogs.
For Black and minoritised victims and survivors, the situation is even worse - but the government has not demonstrated a commitment to addressing this. The scale of the change needed requires much more effort and ongoing investment which will rely on long-term political will, leadership and scrutiny.
We urge the Government to use the legislative opportunity of the Victims and Prisoners Bill to introduce some of these much-needed reforms, including new protections for victims’ therapy records, the provision of independent legal advice and a firewall between statutory services and immigration enforcement.
We also call on government to look beyond the criminal justice system, including committing to prioritisation and investment in work to prevent rape and sexual abuse, so women and girls don’t become victims in the first place.
Amelia Handy, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at Rape Crisis England & Wales, said:
“We are realistic and know that real change takes time to embed, but the pace of change must pick up – victims and survivors of these highly traumatic crimes deserve justice now. Too many are still being denied justice, and are still left retraumatised after engaging with the system. This remains entirely unacceptable.
For most victims and survivors, whether they report their rape or not, specialist, independent, wraparound sexual violence and abuse services are required in order to understand the profound impacts of trauma, and re-establish a life after sexual violence and abuse. With ever-increasing demand, it is now imperative that this specialist provision is seen as a vitally important form of justice in its own right. This is why we continue to call for long-term funding for specialist sexual violence and abuse services like those provided by Rape Crisis Centres, and specialist by and for Black and minoritised women’s services.”