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 a wide gape between rape that “happens to people” and the rape allegations reported to police, and another gap in which these allegations lead to conviction of perpetrator. It was found that 89 % of rapes are not reported and 38 % of the victims of sexual assaults 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”. Sexual offences constitute a very small proportion of all recorded crimes, about 2 % of all offences and about 1.75 % of all persons found guilty of indictable offences. Moreover, conviction rates for rape are far lower than other crimes, with only 5.7% of reported rape cases ending in a conviction for the perpetrator (Stanko, 2011). Also, Hood et al. (2002), found that the reconviction rate for most sexual offenders is “comparatively low”. According to this, the statistics for recorded crimes provide an incomplete picture because they represent only the crimes that were brought to the attention of the police. In consequence, 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). There were four 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 as 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).