Using data provided by Essex Rape and Sexual Abuse Partnership, we have prepared analysis about the reasons that victims withdrew 521 sexual offence complaints.

Our analysis is based on a Rape Crisis administrative dataset of sexual offences reported to the police. The data was collected by frontline Rape Crisis practitioners and includes victims who had contact with Rape Crisis between January 2016 and June 2019.

Victims were asked to identify the reasons for withdrawing their complaints from a list of eighteen reasons. Nearly all the 521 that we analysed were complaints reported to the police between 2014 and 2019 (93%).

For the over 4,500 complaints reported to the police by victims using Rape Crisis services, there was no further action taken by the police for 36% of reported sexual offences, whilst 12% of complaints were sent to the Crown Prosecution Service for decision.

The second most frequent reason that complaints were no longer being investigated was because victims did not support prosecution (33%). For this group of complaints, we further explored the reasons that victims had withdrawn from the investigation process.

We found that delays in the police process was one of the least mentioned reasons for complainants to withdraw, only being cited for the withdrawal of 1% of complaints.

The most prevalent reason given by victims was their concern about criminal justice system processes. We found that over one in four complaints were withdrawn by victims because they felt that the criminal justice system process would be too distressing.

One in five victims withdrew complaints, at least in part, due to disclosure and privacy concerns. Victims in 21% of complaints had concerns about digital downloads and disclosing GP, hospital, school, employment records, and a combination of negative press coverage.

We also found a sizeable number of victims had fears about the impact of prosecutions on their mental health and well-being. Nearly 13% expressed fear about whether, because of their involvement with the criminal justice system, their mental health would be negatively impacted.

The Home Office is leading on a review of the treatment of victims of rape and sexual violence and I have shared this analysis with them.

This data shows how much more work we need to do in building victims confidence in our criminal justice system. Victims of these devastating crimes need to be confident they will receive all the emotional and practical support they need in order to pursue the justice they deserve.

VC analysis of the reasons victims withdraw sexual offence complaints