‘More afraid of police than being raped again’: 75% of sex assault survivors harmed by the investigation


Three out of every four rape and sexual assault victims say their mental health was harmed during the police investigation, according to new research.

In a significant survey of victims, 75% said they were negatively impacted by what police did or didn’t do in their case.

The survey was based on 2,000 rape and sexual assault survivors across England and Wales as part of a government-funded programme, called Operation Soteria Bluestone.

The results show as many as 42% did not always feel believed, while 56% said they are unlikely to report a rape again.

“I am more afraid of the police than being raped again,” said one survivor, who remained anonymous for legal reasons.

Another said it “saddens” them that someone else “went through it because the police dismissed mine so quickly”.

One even added their rapist is a serving armed police officer, who was never arrested or suspended.

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The report also states “some survivors have de-facto lost access to what should be a universal public service available to all – being able to call the police when in danger”.

Only a quarter (26%) of respondents felt officers understood what it was like for them, almost a third (31%) did not always feel safe with officers, while just 37% said police made them feel like they mattered.

Professor Katrin Hohl, a professor of criminology and criminal justice at City, University of London, led the research and described the results as “sobering”.

“They evidence the tremendous harm poor policing has caused to many rape and sexual assault survivors,” she added.

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‘Unprecedented’ survey of rape survivors

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Some signs of improvement exist, however, according to the report.

People who had contact with police in the past three months are more likely to recount positive experiences with officers.

A total of 60% of those respondents said police did a good job, compared to 36% whose last police contact was more than three months ago.

Operation Soteria Bluestone was launched in a bid to improve the judicial process for victims of rape and other sexual offences and is led by the National Police Chiefs’ Council.

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