British Transport Police (BTP) recorded 40 rapes during 2020, including 2 gang rapes and 8 assaults on children. However, real figures – as with all sexual offences – are probably higher than what has been reported. Out of reported rapes only 2.7% resulted in a charge or summons. Evidence suggests that rural trains, with long time gaps between stops, or early morning/late evening trains with fewer passengers, may be of particular concern. Additionally, in 2020 Covid19 travel restrictions imposed on the network led to fewer trains and fewer commuters or bystanders. Quieter trains and fewer train conductors could encourage rapists.
Sexual assault continues to be a pervasive problem in the United Kingdom. According to the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) year ending March 2020, an estimated 1.8% of adults aged 16 to 74 years experienced sexual assault (including attempts). Statistics from 2019 show that only 1.7% of reported rapes were prosecuted in England and Wales. New Home Office statistics suggest the alleged perpetrators of more than 98% of rapes reported to the police are allowed to go free.
Above numbers are only reported figures and actual numbers are estimated to be higher (data from the US suggests nearly 80% of rapes and sexual assaults go unreported). Victims don`t report sexual assault due to social stigma, fear or victimisation or victim blaming culture. The London Rape Review, conducted by the mayor of London’s Office for Policing and Crime and the University of West London study on 500 rape victims suggests that the primary reason for victim dropping charges is deeply traumatising process of investigation and stress induced by police questioning. These findings echo earlier studies (Hansen et al., 2020; Alderden&Long, 2016) around the important role police play as the first contact point into justice, recommending adoption of trauma-informed practices for questioning rape victims.
Hansen, Nina Beck, Sophie Lykkegaard Ravn, and Maj Hansen. “Recorded Withdrawal from The Police Investigation Among Victims of Rape: A Mixed Method Approach to Identifying Case Characteristics and Police Documented Reasons.” Nordic Psychology (2020): 1-13.
Alderden, Megan, and LaDonna Long. “Sexual assault victim participation in police investigations and prosecution.” Violence and victims 31.5 (2016): 819-836.