Two-thirds of all rape cases dropped by victims in Milton Keynes' region
Two-thirds of all rape cases are dropped by the person making the allegation in Thames Valley, figures reveal.
Sexual abuse victims across England and Wales often face lengthy court delays.
Experts say they risk being retraumatised by their experiences of the criminal justice system and many give up on seeking justice because they feel as though they are not believed or that they are the ones under investigation.
Home Office data shows that in most of those cases, police said that the alleged victim no longer supported the investigation. A suspect had already been identified in 80% of them.
Men, who are typically less likely to report rape, made far fewer allegations than women – 70 compared to 902 – and were less likely to drop their case.
The figures also show that just 5% of rape cases closed by Thames Valley Police in that period resulted in a charge or summons.
In response to these findings a spokesperson for the Thames Valley Police said: "Thames Valley Police take all reports of rape and sexual assault extremely seriously.
"We remain committed to preventing and detecting offences of this nature and would always encourage victims to come forward, where they will receive specialist support and will be treated with sensitivity and compassion.
"Any reported offence will be thoroughly investigated, and we will always do everything possible to trace those responsible and take the most appropriate action against them.
"The investigation of such offences is hugely complex and there can be difficulties in reaching the required standard of evidence.Additionally, some of the reports we receive may be from non-recent cases where an offender may have passed away, cannot be traced, or evidence may have been lost due to the passage of time.
"It can be hard, particularly in relation to domestic offences, for victims to come forward and report what has happened. Often, they might also be reported by a third party, where the victim feels they are unable to support the prosecution of a partner or former partner.
"Thames Valley Police will always investigate fully with a victim-focused approach, focusing on the needs of the victim in which a prosecution might not always be the most appropriate course of action for them at the time. We would encourage all victims of sexual offences to report these by calling Thames Valley Police on 101, or if you are in immediate danger, calling 999.There is also further information on our website of how to report and resources for victims of sexual offences and rape, that can be found here.
Charity Rape Crisis and the Criminal Bar Association say lengthy delays within the criminal justice system contribute to the growing issue, a problem exacerbated by court delays linked to the coronavirus pandemic.
Figures for the whole of England and Wales – excluding Greater Manchester – show that 42% of rape investigations closed in the year to September 2020 were abandoned after those who reported attacks withdrew their support, while just 1.5% resulted in a charge or summons.
In Thames Valley, 66% of all rape cases closed over six months were dropped because victims did not support further action.
A Rape Crisis spokeswoman said it is common for people to withdraw from investigations.
She added: “It wasn’t uncommon pre-pandemic for survivors to have to wait two years or more between reporting and their case reaching court.
"That is a very long time to effectively have to keep the memory of what might have been the most traumatic experience of a person’s life to date at the forefront of their thoughts.
“As well as this, the criminal justice process itself is too often re-traumatising for victims and survivors, who tell us they don’t always feel believed or even that they feel like they’re the ones under investigation rather than the suspect.”
Criminal Bar Association chairman James Mulholland QC called for a "reset" of criminal justice resourcing, saying: "The principal reason why complainants in sexual allegation cases are walking away rests with a lack of prosecution resources and delays of years, which prevent the vast majority of such allegations progressing through to charge and trial."
He said delays across the justice system have fuelled an "unacceptable" rise in rape and other violent offences falling apart after allegations are made to police.
A Government spokesperson said it would work with forces to improve the investigation and prosecution of rape offences and do "all it can" to restore faith in the justice system.
“We expect every report of rape to be treated seriously from the point of disclosure, every victim to be treated with dignity and every investigation and every prosecution to be conducted thoroughly and professionally," the spokesperson added.