Update on two investigations into alleged offences in Gloucester & Cheltenham last July
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Detectives investigating two separate allegations, one of rape and another of sexual assault by penetration in July last year, have confirmed that these did not take place.
Both of the reports alleged that the assaults were committed by strangers, however following investigations it became clear that the incidents did not happen.
Acting Detective Inspector Faye Satchwell-Bennett said false reports are rare and she does not want them to deter people from coming forward, but they take crucial time away from supporting victims and bringing perpetrators to justice.
She added: "There were more than 2,000 rapes and sexual assaults recorded by the Constabulary last year, which involved hundreds of victims who we're supporting through the investigation process.
"False reports are rare, but can’t be ignored, and we will challenge them where appropriate as they take valuable time away from officers investigating genuine reports and working with victims who need our help and support. They can also lead to wrongful arrests.
"We felt the public should be made aware of the outcome of these investigations, as these cases would understandably have caused fear and heightened public anxiety within those communities at the time and since then. We've also had feedback at community meetings that the public want to be updated about the outcome of our investigations.
"We encourage anyone who has been a victim of rape or other sexual assaults to please come forward and speak to police. We really do not want to frighten or discourage anyone who has been a victim of any sexual offence from talking to us, as we are here and want to support you."
In one of the cases police had received a report that an unknown man had grabbed an 18-year-old girl and pulled her into an alleyway off Southgate Street in Gloucester, close to the Quays car park on Thursday 28 July.
It was reported that she was sexually assaulted and the man then walked away.
In another incident police were called to a report of a woman in her 20s that had been raped in the area of The Brewery in Cheltenham on Saturday 23 July.
A public appeal for information was issued for one of the incidents, and a statement was provided to local media who had asked about a police cordon in relation to the other report.
Following extensive enquiries by the Constabulary's Rape and Serious Sexual Offences team, a teenage girl involved in the Gloucester report was cautioned for wasting police time.
The investigating officer, DC Sandra Mulrooney, said: "The girl involved was remorseful and understood the damaging consequences of her actions - she was relieved to admit the truth during a police interview."
A boy was initially arrested in connection with the Cheltenham rape allegation, however CCTV evidence later showed that no rape took place. No further police action was taken against the woman, and the boy who had been released on police bail will face no further police action.
Acting DI Satchwell-Bennett, from the Rape and Serious Sexual Offences team, said: "There is power behind words, and it is never too late to confirm the truth.
"Our role is to listen with empathy to every report, carry out a full and impartial investigation and then follow the evidence. We did that in these two cases, but the evidence proved that they did not take place.
"The majority of rapes relate to people who know each other, and proven false reports of rapes are rare.
"Extensive enquiries take place when a report is made to police, such as sending forensic samples for examination, speaking to witnesses, house to house enquiries, trawling CCTV footage, digital forensic reviews, intelligence gathering and other fast-track actions.
"In both of these cases reports were made by a third-party - someone who had been told about the incident, reported it to police, and officers then made contact with the alleged victims to establish the details and start an investigation.
"Reports are always taken seriously, whether they are made directly by the victim or by a third-party, and we have a specialised team of passionate officers who are dedicated to bringing rapists and sex offenders to justice."
Magdalena Gulcz-Hayward from the Gloucestershire Rape and Sexual Assault Centre (GRASAC) said: “False allegations of rape are very rare and in fact make up less than three per cent of all reported rapes, which is no higher than other falsely reported crimes. We know that most people who are affected by sexual violence do not report these crimes to the police.
“It is really important to note that when a disclosure is made the person is believed and it is then crucial to check-in with them with regard to what they would like to happen next. For example, to report the incident or to seek alternative support.”
Myths about rape and other forms of sexual assault are dangerous and can do serious harm.
Myth: Women often make up stories or lie about being raped.
Fact: For anyone who has been raped or sexually assaulted, whether or not to report to the police can be a difficult decision. At present, it’s estimated that only 15% of the 85,000 women who are raped and over 400,000 who are sexually assaulted in England and Wales every year report to the police. One signiﬁcant reason many women and girls tell us they don’t go to the police is because of their fear of not being believed. Unfortunately, a disproportionate media focus on the very small number of cases each year that involve a so-called false allegation of sexual violence perpetuates the public perception that malicious false reporting is common. In fact, it is this perception that is entirely false. For many years, studies have suggested that false reporting rates for rape are no different from false reporting rates for any other crime, that is, around 4%. In March 2013, the Crown Prosecution Service published a survey conﬁrming that false rape reports are ‘very rare’ and suggesting they could make up less than 1% of all reports.
Myth: Women lie about being raped because they want attention or revenge – or regret having had sex with someone.
Fact: False allegations of rape are extremely rare. In fact, most people who are raped or experience another form of sexual violence never tell the police.
Myth: If she'd really been raped then it wouldn't have taken her so long to say something.
Fact: For many people, experiencing rape or another form of sexual violence or abuse can be a very difficult thing to talk about – and it might be a long time before they feel able to. This can be for lots of different reasons. They might feel like they'll be judged or blamed or not believed. Or they might be scared of their perpetrator or another person finding out.