Statistics cannot reliably provide representation of the endemic nature of sexual offences – it is the victim-survivors’ voice which proves to be most powerful. As a result, an increasing emphasis has been placed on creating a ‘victim-focused’ Criminal Justice Service in the United Kingdom to ensure victim-survivors can overcome their traumatic experiences and achieve justice. Within the UK, victim-survivors have numerous entitlements under The Victims’ Code of Practice (VCOP), such as being kept informed regarding the progress of a case, access to support services and the ability to make a Victim Personal Statement. VCOP enables victim-survivors to access a timely, effective, transparent and inclusive justice journey, whether they choose to report the offence or not, and plays a crucial role in the direction of this project. It is estimated fewer than 1 in 5 victim-survivors report being victim to a rape (ONS, 2018) with victim-survivors stating embarrassment as the most common reason. This research project investigates factors influencing the decision of victim-survivors in the United Kingdom to report a crime of a sexual offence. The input of key services within the county of Staffordshire, UK, in relation to sexual offences, including the Police and Third Sector organisations is vital to this study. It is acknowledged the needs of victim-survivors are diverse, complex and dynamic, so through collaborations and data sharing the voice of the victim-survivors will be kept central to the research. Being at the early stage of this research, the researcher aims to illustrate the aims and objectives of the described research highlighting its importance and impact on the UK’s Criminal Justice System. Furthermore, it is hoped that it will initiate sharing of experience and best practice with practitioners from across the globe. Therefore, this research could positively impact the number of victims who feel supported and able to report crimes of sexual offences and inform best practice for victims.
The project uses both quantitative and qualitative methods, and relies on collaborations with relevant agencies. The first stage of the project uses online surveys aimed at victim survivors of sexual offences. The survey will then lead to the facilitation of World Cafe events held with various groups of people including; specialist service providers, front line officers, victim survivors and policy decision makers.