Who does a rape victim turn to in France?

The Observatoire national de la délinquance et des réponses pénales (ONDRP), in its latest note concerning problems linked to crime, based on the results of the crime survey “Cadre de vie et securité” (CVS), addresses problems faced by those who are reference interlocutors once the victim has been the object of a rape.[1]

The first point to stress is the low percentage of victims who go a police station, 19% of the total. And the even lower percentage, 13%, who report the crime. The rest do little more than present a “maincourante[2] (4%) or make no statement at all (2%).

Traditionally, rape is one of the least reported crimes. There are multiple and non-excluding reasons for this. In 67% of cases, victims prefer to find the solution in another context and in 66%they see reporting it as useless as regards resolving the problem. Furthermore, 62% of victims say they don’t turn to the police to avoid further suffering, and a noteworthy 31% did not consider the incident to be sufficiently serious.

The level of communication improves when the person of reference happens to be a doctor (21%), a psychologist or a psychiatrist (29%) and especially someone close, whether this is a family member / relative or a friend (63%).

Another noteworthy piece of information is the significant percentage of victims, 19%, who have never spoken to anyone about what happened. This figure increases if the rape took place at home, although the limited sample of cases prevents this from being a categorical fact.

Besides the statistical findings, there are some observations which are interesting from the point of view of security policies within this context. First of all, it must be stressed that those who turn to the police tend, in much larger numbers, to go to other interlocutors (especially doctors and psychologists).[3]

This logic is also reflected in the cases in which the victim turns to an association. For example, 71% of those victims who have gone to an association have also gone to a doctor, compared with 21% on average in the case of other victims. On the other hand, those who confide in their inner circle (friends and family members) tend not to speak to other interlocutors. 30% of victims only speak to people they are close to and no one else.

[1] Rape (one of the forms of sexual aggression) is defined as a violent act with penetration, imposed violently, force, and threats or by surprise (art.222-22 i 222-23 of the French penal code).The sample involves 290 cases people who claim to have been rape victims over the last two years. Of these cases, 84% of victims are women and 16%, men between 18 and 75. Among the interlocutors the victim turns to are the doctor, psychiatrist and psychologist, the victims helpline, an association, social services, family members and persons close to the victim, and the police. The response may be multiple, meaning that the victim may turn to more than one interlocutor.

[2] Unlike the reporting of a crime, this involves giving information concerning the incident, and does not involve pursuit of the protagonist of the incident or the start of an investigation.

[3] It must be stated that, once the incident has been reported, the victim is guided towards a medical – judicial unit.


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