Half of women ‘not confident’ police will properly investigate sexual assault claims

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By Amit

Half of women are not confident that police will properly investigate sexual assault and domestic abuse claims, a new study has found.

The report led by Victim Support, shared exclusively with The Independent, discovered that 54 per cent of women lack confidence the police will properly investigate their reports of domestic abuse, while 50 per cent said the same of sexual offence cases.

Overall, around four in 10 women who have been the victim of a crime in the past two years said they felt let down by the police investigation into their case.

Researchers at YouGov polled just over 12,500 UK adults at the end of January – with women making up around half of those surveyed. Some 1,756 adults said they had been the victim of crime in the last two years – 951 men and 805 women.

Violence against women and girls has gained increasing attention since Sarah Everard, a 33-year-old marketing executive who lived in south London, was kidnapped, raped and murdered by serving Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens in 2021.

Police have faced sustained criticism over their failure to tackle violence against women within their own ranks amid a spate of other scandals involving officers.

While David Carrick, a serial rapist Met Police officer who is one of the worst sex offenders in modern history, was sentenced last month to a minimum of 30 years in prison.

Jo*, a domestic abuse survivor, said she was badly let down by the police when she reported her partner’s violence at the age of 18.

This meant she found it difficult to trust the police when she endured domestic abuse again years later.

Jo, from London, added: “The first time round they didn’t take me seriously at all – they judged me off the fact that I was a young mum, they judged me off the fact that I was a care leaver.

“They told me, ‘you’re 18 years old, you should know better. He’s not the father of your child, so why would you be involved with him?’ They told me I should make better choices.”

Jo said police officers sought to ask her if the domestic abuse was one-sided as she explained they chose not to prosecute her partner.

“They kept on saying to me, ‘so you didn’t do anything to him, you didn’t retaliate back?’” she recalled.

While Jo did not seek support from the police when she suffered domestic abuse from a different partner years later, she did finally notify the police when the violence eventually placed her life at risk.

She added: “When they issued a warrant for his arrest, I wasn’t notified, so they put me in danger without realising.

“I was still in my property, I was still in communication with him, he still had access to my phone, and they’re just ploughing ahead and going and doing things without consulting me. They fail people again and again. I wish I had never come forward.”

Valerie Wise, national domestic abuse lead at Victim Support, said: “Lack of trust in the police is a very real issue for the women we support. It isn’t a new problem, but it has undoubtedly spiralled in wake of so many horrendous stories of abuse committed by serving police officers.

“The issue is twofold – time and again women are told that things are going to change, but they are just confronted with more stories of abuse. For those who actually do report, too often they are let down, not taken seriously and not listened to.”

Ms Wise argued there must be a tangible change for women’s trust and faith in policing to be restored.

“That means a radical overhaul of policing culture,” she added. “It means actually rooting out misogyny, believing women and having independent oversight and scrutiny of policing. It is also vital that the women who are brave enough to come forward receive independent support.”

*Jo’s name has been changed to protect her identity

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