England

Women 'lack trust' in rape police, Durham University study finds

Rape victim in specialist clinic (posed by a model)
Image caption Many women expressed a lack of trust in the police

Women do not think the police take rape and domestic violence as seriously as they should do, according to research by Durham University.

The study found fewer than half of 577 women questioned would report domestic violence if it happened to them.

Researchers spoke to women in the Northumbria, Durham, Cleveland and Cumbria force areas.

All the forces said they took reports of rape and domestic violence seriously and were working to improve services.

The study, funded by the Northern Rock Foundation, found only 49% of women questioned would definitely report domestic violence if it happened to them and although 89% of women would report rape by a stranger, the percentage of women who would report rape by someone known to them was just 68%.

'Good work'

Many women expressed a lack of trust in the police, fear of re-victimisation by the criminal justice system and the emotional strain of going through a prosecution.

Dr Nicole Westmarland, senior lecturer in criminology at Durham University, who led the research, said: "We know that the police have put additional resources and effort into improving both victim care and investigations.

"However, this research shows women are still reluctant to make that first step and report these crimes to the police."

Cullagh Warnock, programme manager at the Northern Rock Foundation, said: "We know there continues to be low levels of reporting of these crimes, despite much good work by our local police forces.

"But this research clearly demonstrates that women think the police should prioritise domestic violence and rape."

A spokesman for Durham Police said: "We have improved our service significantly over recent years by listening to the views of victims and experts in this field and will always continue to put the victim at the heart of our response."

A Cleveland Police spokesman added: "We support the rights of victims to make a choice as to whether or not to involve the police.

"However, we would hope that this choice was not influenced by a misperception that the police do not take this kind of crime seriously as this is simply not true."

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