Police Record 10,000 Indecent Assault Cases, Fewer Than 600 Go to Court | criminality
Women face an ‘epidemic’ of flash and other forms of indecent exposure, with police in England and Wales registering more than 10,000 cases last year but bringing fewer than 600 people to justice, reveals Guardian analysis.
The findings come after Wayne Couzens was flagged for repeated cases of suspected indecent exposure in the years and days leading up to the rape and murder of Sarah Everard, but was left with no action . Police admitted that they may have had enough clues to identify the officer as a threat to women earlier, fearing the flash could be a gateway to other sex crimes.
One in 10 women have been subjected to indecent exposure, and more than 113,000 last year, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and the Crime Survey for England and Wales.
Police recorded 10,775 cases of “whistleblowing and voyeurism” during the year through March 2020, according to ONS, when only 594 suspects were brought to justice, resulting in 435 guilty verdicts, figures show of the Ministry of Justice for 2020.
The Victims Commissioner for England and Wales said the indecent exposure was rarely taken seriously by police. Vera Baird urged law enforcement to record and rigorously investigate reports of indecent assault, as potential precursors to more serious sexual offenses.
“It really does appear to be an epidemic,” Baird said. “I hardly know a woman who hasn’t been flashed. It’s clearly rampant and needs to be taken seriously, especially because I think the attitude it reveals is quite risky.
His comments came as Boris Johnson backed Cressida Dick, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, saying “we can trust the police” but admitting “there is a problem” in the way violence against of women has been treated.
In 2015, a motorist reported that Couzens was driving naked from waist to toe, when a few days before Everard’s disappearance he allegedly exposed himself to a worker at a McDonald’s restaurant.
A report from the police inspection published last month said 50% of women who responded to a public survey said they did not feel safe in public spaces, while the ONS found that two in three women aged 16 to 34 had experienced harassment in the past 12 months, and 29% felt they were being followed.
Baird said: “Too often the police don’t take indecent reports seriously. All reports require rigorous recording to build up an intelligence picture [because] the possibilities of escalation cannot be avoided.
Dr Fiona Vera-Gray, assistant professor in the Department of Sociology at Durham University and an expert on sexual violence and harassment, said ONS statistics – showing at least one in 10 women aged 16 to 74 years old said he was the victim of indecent exposure. since the age of 16 – were probably an underestimate.
“From a young age, women learn to doubt themselves and not to take exposure seriously,” she said. “We have to think differently about what evil is, what it means. This is to say to women: “I could hurt you; there is nothing in me that prevents me from showing you my penis, there is a threat attached to it… look what I can do to you, look how I can humiliate you, the omnipresent threat of sexual violence .
Data shows that 5.8%, or about one in 17 adults, say they have been victims of indecent assault since the age of 16.
Of the 594 exposure allegations brought to court, 123 resulted in immediate jail terms, with an average length of detention of six and a half months. Community sentences were handed down for 189 offenses.
Jayne Butler, Executive Director of Rape Crisis, said: “Exposure to indecent exposure is a sexual offense and causes distress to those who experience it. Sexual assaults of this type are sometimes considered “low intensity” sexual offenses and this can deter people from reporting them because they do not believe they will be taken seriously.
“We see instances where a perpetrator escalates their behavior and continues to commit other sexual offenses, but in all cases we expect the police to take seriously and investigate any sexual offenses that are reported to them.”
She added: “Crimes like indecent exposure often indicate an individual’s need for attention and sense of sexual entitlement – the magnitude of the indecent exposure offense in statistics reflects a a culture that tolerates a toxic masculinity that must be challenged. These offenses cause distress to victims and can indicate that a perpetrator has attitudes that could lead to further offenses if not taken seriously.