The question of rape is one that has always led to difficult decisions for Police and courts; with cases often boiling down to who the more believable party is. Many rape cases go unresolved or even unreported and in certain instances charges fail to stick. A recent investigation into rapes around the UK found that while the number of rape charges had been rising, the conviction rate was in fact falling. The figures released in June 2014 showed that the percentage of convictions of cases brought to trial peaked at 63.2% in 2013, before dropping back down to 60.3% by 2014.

This led the Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, to set new guidelines, believing that part of the problem was the myth that rape victims were attacked by a stranger in a “dark alley”. In fact, Rape Crisis highlighted that 90% of female victims are raped by men they already know. 

It is this data that has led to the most recent report that indicates rapists contact their victims through Social media websites after an attack in order to cover their tracks. Police and Crown Prosecution Service’s heard this latest data at a joint conference held on Wednesday. They were informed that an emerging pattern of behaviour was established where rapists constructed “false narratives” after the crime, in a bid to build a backstory should the case reach the courts.

This often sees rapists contacting victims the following day, either by text message or via social media to thank them for the encounter, something which the defendants can then use should there be a trial.

The conference heard that there has been a 30% increase in the number of rape cases coming to court in the past two years.

Surprisingly, one of the main reasons for this increase is believed to be the publicity garnered by Jimmy Saville, this has led to victims feeling their experiences will be believed. Martin Hewitt, the national lead officer on rapes and sexual assaults took time at the conference to welcome the rise in reporting of rapes, but insisted that “we are still only getting 20-25% of those who suffer the offence […] 75% of victims are not coming forward”.

His conclusion was a significant one, believing that “it should be more about fully investigating the suspect’s behaviour and building a strong case, making it less about the credibility of the victim and more about the credibility of the circumstances”.

The trouble with many rape cases and one of the main reasons why victims fail to come forward following an attack is the fear of not being believed. Considering that the burden of proof tends to sit with the victim, cases inevitably revolve around whether the story is believable or not. Hewitt insists that the mentality must change, it is the circumstances that should be questioned, and whether they are typical of a sexual encounter. This would take into account the fact that offenders attempt to set up their story using social media or text the following day.

Such evidence could be used in a trial to display an offender’s attempts to prove it was consensual. From now on, during investigations, detectives are expected to establish what steps, if any, a suspect took to obtain the complainant’s consent.

The hope is that the recent changes to the system and the discovery of social media as a tool for offenders will lead to two important changes. First, an increase in cases being reported and an end to victims being worried their story may not be believed. Second, an increase in the percentage of convictions for cases brought to light.