Rape is penetration by any object that is inserted into the vagina or anus. (It can also include the mouth as part of a sexual assault). Rape frequently happens by known offenders. It can occur in marriage, or by complete strangers. Rape can happen to anyone. It can be used as a form of torture in war, to humiliate, or to frighten and control. It is not caused by a man’s uncontrollable sexual urge or desire but it is a planned assault. It is the refusal to accept “no”, whether said or conveyed by body language. Rape can happen to men and boys too.
Consent is a major issue within many rapes in the UK. Consent can only be given when the victim is free to choose. People who have drunk large amounts of alcohol cannot freely consent. Many rapists know that by buying alcohol for their victims, they can lessen the chances of the incident being reported to the police, through guilt the victim feels.
Spiking is a common way of inducing rape. Spiking can happen with drugs, (commonly Rohypnol, GHB), or more frequently with alcohol. Spiking can leave a victim being unaware of what is happening, with vague memories coming back at a later date, or not at all; paralysed so that they are aware of what is happening but cannot move to get away, or drunk that they are unaware of what is happening.
Rape may lead to pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, or HIV. It can destroy relationships, cause post traumatic stress disorder and have long term impacts – inability to seek medical or dental help, eating disorders, suicidal thoughts/attempts, recklessness. It can lead to a lack of trust of all men. Men may respond by becoming erect whilst the rape is happening. This can lead to a confusion of sexuality.
Rape may or may not involve other forms of threats or violence. Victims cannot know how they will respond, as the “fight or flight” response can kick in and although they may want to scream, run, put up resistance they may not be physically able to. They have to make split second decisions which may be to endure to avoid further violence. Judging victims for the response they make can be devastating.
Gangs may use rape as a form of initiation or to punish male gang members or control female ones.
Victims may be offered support via a SARC (sexual assault referral centre), but this will generally be available during the first few days following the rape. Counselling may also be available, but this will only be for recent incidents. Historic rapes, (generally those reported 10 days later or more) will not have access to a SARC. SARCs will collect forensic evidence, which may be able to be used at a later date.
If the case has been reported to the police an ISVA (Independent Sexual Violence Advisor) may be available to support the victim through the legal process. The ISVA can help arrange medical appointments, and explain court processes and procedures.
Most victims do not report rape. There are many reasons why this happens – fear of reprisals, not being believed, not understanding they have been raped, no confidence in justice system to get a conviction, disbelief, shock, no supplementary evidence. If victims do tell someone, their reaction may well affect any further disclosure. A negative response will lead to clamming up.
Victims can repress what has happened for years, and if disclosure happens at a later date, the incident becomes fresh in the mind, and the trauma associated with it, can then occur. Likewise the body can react to physical stimuli that remind it of the assault.
Very few victims make false allegations. There is no evidence to suggest this occurs in rape more than in any other crime. Offenders found “Not Guilty” may well have committed the crime – and the CPS rarely takes a case forward where there isn’t about 60% chance of a conviction.
Some victims will become multiple victims. This may be down to vulnerability from previous assault, reckless behaviour and general vulnerability.
You may be first complainant (ie the victim has never disclosed to anyone before). In this instance a detailed record must be kept in case the victim decides they would like to report the incident to the police. As first complainant you may be required to give evidence. All records should be signed and dated by you, and kept securely (under lock and key) for at least 7 years.
Victims who have reported the assault to the police, and pursued the case can apply for Criminal Injuries Compensation, irrespective of the outcome of the case.
Rape Crisis 08088029999
Victim Support 0845 3030900
Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority 0800 3583601
Information on Criminal Justice process
From Report to Court – Explanation of the Criminal Justice Process available from the Home Office (or police) produced by Rights of Women