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Date Published
March 14, 2024

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has this week (12th March 2024) published the final findings of its research on improving responses to rape – part of Operation Soteria, of the most promising outcomes of the government’s Rape Review.

Despite rape prosecutions dropping to record lows, a government apology to survivors and work to tackle the barriers hindering access to justice, the research makes some worrying findings, including:

  • Prosecutors continue to inappropriately focus on victim credibility as the basis of rape investigations, rather than investigating the actions of the suspect
  • Rape myths and stereotypes continue to inform decision-making about victims’ cases, at every stage of the justice process
  • Prosecutors aren’t taking seriously sexual offences reported by young people – with rape myths and lack of understanding about use of dating apps and social media meaning harmful behaviour is trivialised and younger victims dismissed
  • A victim’s mental ill health significantly undermines the likelihood of a rape case proceeding
  • Judges fail to recognise the importance of Independent Sexual Violence Advisors (ISVAs)

The End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW) has long campaigned to transform the justice system’s response to rape, including taking the CPS to court for its failure to prosecute rape.

While we welcome Operation Soteria and the green shoots of progress beginning to emerge, this latest research does nothing to reassure us that this change is reaching prosecutors, who continue to carry out inappropriate fishing expeditions into victims’ lives for information which doesn’t bear any relevance to the sexual violence they’ve been subjected to – including their private counselling notes, medical records, school reports and other personal information.

Factors like a victim’s mental health are too often treated by the criminal justice system as a reason to doubt their experience, despite everything we know about the strong links between mental ill-health and vulnerability to abuse. This research highlights how deeply embedded ableism, misogyny and other forms of discrimination are within the CPS and how these vulnerabilities to abuse are being weaponised to deny some of the most marginalised survivors justice.

Our justice agencies are still failing to grasp the role that coercion and control plays in abusive relationships, including the impact of this on the freedom to consent to sex. It is hugely worrying to see this latest evidence point to prosecutors not taking seriously non-penetrative offences being reported by adolescent victims, or understanding the increasing role that social media and dating apps play in young people’s lives. Myths about modern dating practices should never be used to discount victim’s accounts of abuse, and it is alarming to learn prosecutors tend to trivialise as ‘banter’ among young people what would be considered to be predatory behaviour among adults.

Andrea Simon, Director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW), said:

“This report backs up what we’ve long known, that rape myths and stereotypes are deeply embedded in the criminal justice system, with prosecutors problematically focusing on whether or not victims are seen to be ‘credible’ when they report rape, rather than investigating the incident. This victim-blaming lies at the heart of decision making about whether to progress cases through to a court hearing.

Prosecutors play an important role in providing guidance to police at the early stages of an investigation. Prosecutors holding misconceptions about rape and fundamentally misunderstanding the impact of trauma on victims only adds to the well-established issues with police investigations of rape. Ultimately, this stops rape victims accessing justice and lets perpetrators off the hook.

We urgently need to make faster and deeper progress with transforming the culture of our justice agencies and how they treat violence against women and girls.”

Media contact

Sinead Geoghegan, Head of Communications,

Date Published
March 14, 2024
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