Planning for rape – surely not ?

by Robert Whiston  July 2013

Rape, by its very definition is invariably an unplanned event in the same way that homicides are generally unplanned. But is there any pattern to be gleaned from what data is available ?  The Open University thinks so in its paper : “Attrition in rape cases: Developing a profile and identifying relevant factors” (2003). British Journal of Criminology, 43(3), pp. 583–599.

Weddings usual occur at weekends and to reinforce the point the ONS even provides data on which days of the week and which months are most popular for couples. Most are usually very long in the planning stage with Saturdays and Sundays being the most obvious choices.

So it might come as a surprise to learn that on a less joyous note, rapes and attempted rapes follow a similar weekly ‘popularity’ pattern – though perhaps no one has yet looked at monthly patterns.  This is not to say they are pre-planned but certain days of the week do seem more popular (‘frequency’) than others for such an event to occur and one has to ask ‘why.’

Fortunately, the Open University has addressed this subject in its “Attrition in rape cases” paper of 2003.[1]

Taking as their basis a South West of England police force (perhaps Devon or Cornwall) they were able to produce the following graphic below (see Fig. 1. Day Frequency).

 Fig_1_freqAt first glance this looks like it might represent a clear weekly trend from a high point on Sunday followed by a collapse on Monday followed by a steady recovery until the end of the week.

However, that is not the case. Fig. 1 is a graph that ranks all of the days of the week but it is out of sequence.

To correct this impression Fig. 1A has been created which starts on Monday and ends on Sunday. It uses the same numerical information but far from a smooth increase as the week ticks down to a social ‘blowout’ and letting one’s hair down at the weekend with heavy drinking after work, an unexpected saw-tooth pattern emerges.

Fig_1A_ freqPerhaps most unexpectedly is that sexual activity that might so easily give rise to claims of rape are as low on Saturdays when one might expect higher levels of interchange and interaction between the sexes as they are for a Tuesday or a Thursday. This assumption is, of course, based on statistical data indicating that most alleged rape involve girls and women in the 16 – 28 years age range and who might be expected to ‘partying’ at weekends and in the evening.

Addendum: As if to underline the fragility of data and the methods deployed to collect them, a 2007 paper by the Home Office using a sample of 676 cases [*] shows Tuesday to be the most likely day a rape is reported:

  • “More than half of crimed offences took place between Friday and Sunday, although Tuesday was the most common day of report.”
  • “Just under three in ten offences took place between midnight and 00.59.”

[*] “Investigating and detecting recorded offences of rape

Sample and methods

The aim of the study was to develop a profile of rape cases within a Constabulary in the South West of England, and identity factors associated with the “attrition rate.”

All cases of rape, or attempted rape, of a female or male over the age of 16 were included, from the years 1996 to 2000. Over this 4 year period data on 379 cases was collected (sample size = 379), using the CIS and questionnaires sent to the relevant Chief Investigating Officer. The OU applied both quantitative and qualitative techniques and they claim the resulting profile of attrition differed in several respects from previous research.

The study also included extensive written comments provided by the officers which offered an insight into the police perspective on rape. However, this claim should be taken with a pinch of salt since such an analysis would be of a subjective dimension rather than an empirical one, with police officers probably knowing that their personal comments would be used to bolster a given position which might lead them to  self-filter or self censor their comments.

Most rapes or attempted rapes, the Open University paper states, were committed at the weekend, with Sunday being the most frequently reported day (this includes rapes by intimates, acquaintances or strangers). It also goes on to claim that:

  • “An interesting profile emerged (see Figure 1 above) revealing a stepped progression whereby the frequency of rape is lowest on Mondays, increasing each day through to being highest on Saturday.”

Sunday was the second most frequently reported day for the alleged crime to have been committed Said the OU paper.

The time of day at which such crimes were committed was most frequently was between midnight and 6 am but also commonly between 6 pm and midnight. These two time periods accounted for “76% of cases.” it follows that just over 20% of rape claims occurred during the day, say 9am to 5 pm. [Contrast this with the times shown in Addendum above ].

Claiming that the frequency of rape increases “each day through to being highest on Saturday” is misleading as Fig 1A shows. Friday is the highest frequency for rapes.

The first and most immediate problem with the claim of “a stepped progression” is that it does not meet the criterion for being ‘stepped’ and secondly for being ‘progressive’ during the week.

While Fig 1 does indeed show a progression during the week it is based on days that do not follow each other chronologically and many would suggest it is misleading to reply upon it as such.

Figure 1A, on the other hand, remains true to the chronologic order but in so doing loses the headline impact of more rapes at the end of the week. Which is better ?

Despite the ‘76% of cases’ which occurred in the evening or at night, this still leaves almost a quarter of cases of rape and attempted rape that took place during the day. Do some or most (or none) daytime rapes have characteristics not found in those that occur at night ? Has anyone asked the question ?

If anything, the fact that rapes in this sample occurred or were reported more on a Wednesday than any other say save for Friday and Sunday is unexpected. What factors are at work to make Wednesday markedly more prevalent than Saturday but only marginally greater than a Monday ?

The paper helpfully also gives us an idea of the duration of the rape – in 90% of cases it lasted up to one day. But then it confuses the issue by adding, “roughly 25% of cases it lasted less than 30 minutes, up to two hours, between two and 12 hours and between 12 and 24 hours.”

To many minds that is such an ambiguous statement as to render it meaningless.  Some clarity is restored when it concludes that:

  • “The remaining 10 % of cases involved lengthy periods of abuse, 3% of which stretched over many years.”

Delayed reporting

Reporting a rape has, since 1988 when rape became politicised as it was added to the Feminist agenda, a contentious issue. The right to claim a rape months or years after the event and be believed has been a cornerstone of the feminist’s monolithic world view. So it is interesting to learn that 66% of rape cases in this police forces region were reported within a day of the alleged crime being perpetrated. And 13% were reported within two weeks, with the remaining 21% being reported some time after the crime.

Only in 6% of cases was the crime was reported more than 6 months after the offence – but this ‘6%’ includes not just a) those a few months more than 6 month but b) sometimes several or c) many years later. Why is this 6% so important to women’s lobby groups when in any other field a 6% ‘slippage’ would be acceptable?

A small though significant correlation was said to have been found by Spearman between the victim and perpetrator’s relationship and the time which had elapsed between the offence and its reporting. The Open University paper then cites Spearman’s work in this way (“Spearman’s rho =-.237, p < .01, n = 365”).

It would appear that the closer the relationship between the victim and the perpetrator, the longer the time taken to report the crime. Victims of stranger and acquaintance rapes, therefore, were more likely to report the crime within one to two days of its occurrence (if not within hours), while victims of rape by a male relative or partner sometimes did not report the case for years.

The Home Office in its definition of rape perpetrators has divided them into 3 categories; by 1/. intimates 2/. acquaintances and 3/. strangers. What was worrying from an analytical point of view were the changes made about 10 years ago in the definition of the last two, i.e. acquaintance and stranger rapes. With the political driver at the time being to fuel the fertile imagination of all women’s fear of this crime it was fashionable to emphasis how all men – but particularly those they knew – posed the greatest threat to women knew ro some degree. This was nothing short of a gender smear tactic and ignored the fact that 0.6% of all crimes have some form of greater or lesser sexual offence overtone, e.g. flashing.

In the view of some this shift saw a ‘stranger’ become an ‘acquaintance’ on the basis that if the accused had been seen before in the street, passed her by at any time, or in the case of an AA breakdown man had met her for the first time only 2 hours beforehand then they fell into the new ‘acquaintance’ category. It is open to speculation that the ulterior motive for this was purely sexual politics.

This is not the commonsense meaning of the word ‘acquaintance.’ An acquaintance is someone we metaphorically bump into regularly at the local corner ship, wave to, or shout ‘Morning’ to now and then, or perhaps someone living in the same road and who we see every Sunday mowing his lawn but who never engage in dialogue. Thus they are not intimates, meaning close kin or people we have had sex with in the past, nor are they strangers who we have not seen before.

By this artificial re-jigging of categories the HO was able to show that stranger rapes were fast disappearing while at the same time rapes by intimates and acquaintances were increasing.

It is therefore very satisfying to read that the Open University results show that:

  1. A quarter of cases in this sample (25%) involved ‘intimate’ rapes
  2. Nearly one half (50%) could be described as acquaintance rapes
  3. 26% of rapes involved ‘strangers’

‘Intimate’ rapes are confined to husbands, partners, boyfriends – past and present in all of the 3 categories. So a quarter of the 25% (item 1) involved allegations against a current husband, partner or in the case of a boyfriend 14%. This presents theological difficulties since the whole idea of marriage is to legitimate mutual longings for sexual intercourse. One suspects, therefore, that claims of rape within marriage effectively draws a veil over other more important shortcomings as factors in what must be a trouble relationship.

‘Estranged’ husband, partners or boyfriends accounted for 10%, with a further 6% of cases involving an accused who was a male relative, such as an uncle.

In 44% of cases the alleged perpetrator was revealed to be an acquaintance or friend (30%. and 14% respectively), while 26% of cases involved a stranger. A quarter of all rapes may not sound significant but given eth gradual erosion year after year it is remarkable that the figure is so high.

Police Research

Long before Baroness Stern’s review into rape called for better research (2010), a Police Research paper of 2002 and published by the Home Office, conceded that it would be more than a good idea if society improved its understanding of criminal careers. [2] In particular, the research paper thought that exploring “the previous criminal histories of those who had been convicted of murder or ‘serious sexual assault’ (SSA) i.e. rape might prove fruitful. However, this potentially fruitful idea to understand the problem was instantly sidelined in favour of relentlessly putting more alleged rapists in jail and on restricting a defendant’s human right to a fair trial whenever accused of rape.


It remains troubling to hardline rape reform advocates that actual rape numbers are not increasing as they hope and that rape convictions are not 100% of all those charged. For them this last point is utterly incomprehensible. This has not changed with the CPS report of 2013 if one reads even a sample of the vociferous criticisms of it from some quarters.

Since the 1980s there has been a lack of understanding in official circles for why rape conviction numbers are declining. Quite recently a government paper “Investigating and detecting recorded offences of rape.” (pub July 2007) asked:

  • “ . . .. [what were] the “reasons behind the decline in recorded detection rates for rape since 1997” [and] “why marked variations in detection rates exist in different forces”.

The raison d’être of this 2007 report was to understand this phenomenon with the unspoken assumption being that there should be more ‘detections’ and more convictions as the reported of rapes increase. No thought was given to the fact that proof has to be first established to get convictions rates to increase (nor that rape claims might be motivated by more than just a sexual assault, i.e. a false or malicious allegation).

To override the discretion and individual methods used by different police forces the Home Office has wheeled out its big gun – the HO Circular. The result is that different types of people and demographics which might give the marked variations complained of are to be steam-rollered into a mandatory and standardised approach to rape reporting across the country.

Location of offence

As in all surveys into this subject the majority of rapes, or attempted rapes, took place within the home of either the complainant or the accused (62%). The analysis needs only a belief mention:

62% occurred in the home of the complainant or the accused

  • 30% occurred in the home of the complainant                        }
  • 17% occurred in the home of the accused                               } 62% (?)
  •   4% occurred in the car of one of the parties
  •   6% occurred in an indoor ‘private’ place such as a friend’s house
  • 28% occurred in an indoor ‘public’ place, e.g. nightclub
  •  7% occurred in public’ place, e.g. nightclub               }
  • 20% occurred outdoors such as in an alleyway          } 28%

Allowing for some ‘rounding up’ and that the above refers to the “majority of rapes or attempted rapes”, it is obvious that 30% + 17% does not make 62%. There is no explanation for this in the notes.

Through our shared experience of parenting teenagers we already know they like ‘clubbing’ and ‘discos’ (or whatever the current term is at present), so it is reassuring to know that findings back up such impressions and that the age of the victim and the initial place of contact have a ‘significant relationship.’

  • “Younger victims tended to have encountered the perpetrator for the first time in a public place (such as a club, disco or hotel) than older victims who were more likely to encounter the perpetrator in a private place (their own home or someone else’s).”

The following findings are included as they may be of relevant in some instances and to some readers:

  • In 37% of cases the victim reported having no prior contact with the accused
  • In 19% of cases full sexual intercourse with the accused prior to the alleged rape or attempted rape was reported.
  • In 24% of cases the ‘victim’ had some form of physical contact with the accused, in most cases kissing the accused or allowing an arm to be put around him or her.
  • In 3% of cases the victim accepted a lift home from the accused and in 7% of cases accepted an invitation to his house.
  • In 8% of cases the victim went for a walk with the accused
  • In 8% of cases and in a further 2% they danced with the accused or allowed him to buy him/her a drink.


Most cases, of rape or attempted rape involved a single victim (98%) and a single offender (95%). Usually, a single act of sexual violence was perpetrated or attempted. In the majority’ of cases this act comprised vaginal intercourse.

Anal intercourse was involved in 5% of cases, while oral intercourse on or by the offender was involved in 1% of cases.

In a minority of cases (4%) other acts of sexual violence such as penetration of the victim with a finger or an object were committed (sometimes in conjunction with the rape or attempted rape of the victim).

Violent and non-violent rape

Victims of rape reported that no threats of additional violence (other than that the of rape itself) were made in 71% of cases.

In 13% of cases vague threats were made and in the remaining 16% of cases, the perpetrator verbally threatened to kill the victim, threatened physical / manual violence, threatened to use a weapon or used some combination of these threats.

Of the 13% of victims who were threatened or treated roughly almost half (46%) were characterised by no violence being exerted at all. However, in just over a third (38%) of this same 13% of cases, the victim was treated roughly.

Similarly, in the 16 % sub-category, i.e. where perpetrator had verbally threatened violence findings showed analogous numerical divisions between those where the threat of violent acts was not carried out and those where they were.

So although the use of violence was a significant factor in the mind of the victim – and threatened or promised by the perpetrator – only a proportion of violent acts actually accompanied the rape offence. The use of further violence (presumably follow-on acts) is stated to be “relatively low.” This is born out by the injury statistics for this sample of approx. 379 cases:

In 64% of the victim did not sustain additional injuries (beyond those sustained through the rape or attempted rape). Of the remaining 36% of cases:

  • slight injuries were sustained in 33%
  • moderate injuries were sustained in 1%
  • severe injuries in 2%

Thus, in over 96% of rapes cases no significant additional bodily injuries were sustained.


This OU (Open University) paper from 2003 is already addressing the disputed no-crimed and NFA-ed (no further action) totals found in so many rape reports over the decades. The high level in ‘no-crimed’ and ‘NFAs’ is not the product (despite many claims to the contrary) of a police conspiracy. It is the sad but true reality that there are fantasists and ‘unstable’ women who are of an age to engage in sexual intercourse. Later in the text we learn that:

  • “The main reason for crimes not progressing through the criminal justice system was lack of evidence, this reason constituting 39% of cases where reasons were proffered.”

“No-crimed’ and ‘NFAs’ have already been dealt with most adequately elsewhere on this blog site to need further explanation. However, as this is not a Home Office sponsored study it would be as well to compare the graph produced by the OU with those produced by HO researchers. The OU has presented the data in Pie Chart form (see Figure 2 below).


The Pie Chart depicts the current status of the 379 crimes of rape or attempted rape. The largest category of cases consisted of those that were NFA-ed – combined they total 61%.

  • 26%  NFA – detected by Police
  • 14%  NFA-CPS
  • 14%  NFA-CPS +Police (unclear as to which)
  •   7%  NFA-Police undetected.


Of the remaining 39% of cases 10% were pending, 11% were ‘no-crimed,’ and in 7% of cases the victim refused to assist with the inquiry or retracted the allegation, and 11% resulted in a conviction of some kind.

  • NB. This was a ‘changeover year’ with the new Sexual Offences Act of 2003 with it broader powers coming in to force for the first time.

It is apparent from police comments to the OU study that many are unhappy with the way the CPS handles rape cases. Police officers who completed the 2003 questionnaire raised a number of other issues with respect to the processing of rape cases. Many officers took the opportunity to express their own “frustration and disillusionment with the system” especially around:

  • “ . . . the relationship between the CPS and the police being unsatisfactory, in terms of information and communication, and the attitudes and perceptions of barristers and judges in terms of rape victims specifically and the crime of rape generally. Thus officers complained that they were uncertain as to what the CPS needed in order to proceed with a rape case.”

Not unnaturally, some officers felt aggrieved that having worked long hours on a case in which they were convinced that the accused was guilty, the CPS decided to have the case NFA-ed. Before the CPS was created and Police Forces brought the prosecutions to court one can visualise the police in these cases settling for a lesser crime rather than none at all. It was clear from the 2003 study that officers were complaining that they were “uncertain as to what the CPS needed in order to proceed with a rape case.”

One suspects that an area for improvement would be that exemplified by the 14% of cases where the Police and CPS did not know which one of them had decided to take “no further action” (NFA). In the 10 years since this 2003 study one would expect this grey area to have been remedied and it is this interface between police and CPS which is dutifully ‘recorded’ but not counted for false allegation statistics.

Very revealing is how authors depict the various players in the sub-text of the tragedy. Those making claims of rape are ‘victims’ and even when they are falsely making a rape claim are still referred to as victims. This contrasts with the CPS who are always ubiquitously named and the police, but the victim of a false and malicious rape allegation is never described as a ‘victim’. Not surprisingly the tenor changes whenever false rape issues are discussed, hence instead of saying “Police officers often have good reason to state that a false allegation of rape had been made,” we get: the slightly accusative tone of :

  • “Police officers quite often claimed that a false allegation of rape had been made.”

A small point, a trifle, one might think until the next sentence is read which plainly states that the main reason for cases being no-crimed was “insufficient evidence.” So it has nothing to do with what a police officer may or may not “claim”, it is not acting on the evidence and showing no favouritism in the discharge of his duty. Indeed, this desire to see the desired result brings forth this in the very next sentence:

  • “In just under 10% of cases the police claimed that a false allegation had been made and in a further 10% of cases the police claimed that the victim had admitted to making a false allegation or to the ‘rape’ being consensual. Despite this, the victim was charged with wasting police time in very few cases.

How can the word “despite” fit in at this juncture and still make sense ?  The police are not claiming that 20% are false allegation they have evidence to show that 20% are false – half of them (10%)  by virtue of an admission of making a false allegation by the alleged “victim.”

The OU paper goes on to confirm recent data collected on behalf of PAFAA namely that a sizeable minority of complaints were `maliciously’ driven or stemming from the mentally/emotionally ‘unstable.’

PAFAA data collected showed a main grouping of 5 or 6 reasons given in court to excuse false rape allegations. The OU states that:

  • “These included that the complainant’s partner had called off their engagement, that the complainant `wanted to force her lover to marry her’, or that the complainant suspected her partner of having sex with someone else, or that she herself had had sex with someone else.”

Sadly, the OU paper does not break the mould and parrot like reiterates many a tired mantra. So while noting that some police officers appeared to be empathetic to rape victims some were less so and more likely to doubt their reporting of rape. Naively, and this is within a few sentences of accepting that 20% of rape claims are false, the OU states:

  • “Indeed, they still seemed to believe that many women cry rape in order to seek attention.”

With respect to convictions, the OU falls into the same trap as so many others by citing the product after the ‘attrition rate’ as the  conviction rate and stats it as 5% of the 379 cases. But as sown above over 60% were NFA-ed (no further action), and a further 20% were ‘no-crimed.’

Although in this study of 379 cases there was not one of rape of a male, in 1% of cases the accused was “cautioned” while in a further 5% of cases (including two cases where the victim was male), the accused was convicted of a lesser crime. This is a key feature as 2003 was the changeover year and this study probably represents a year when police could still get a conviction for a mutually agreed lesser offence. Post 2003 and due to the changes in the wording this would be almost impossible.

These lesser crimes incorporated a sexual component in 2.9% of cases, were non-sexual in nature in 1.6% of cases and were for attempted rape in 0.5% of cases. Arguably, were these numbers repeated across the country, the 2003 Act gains very little in conviction numbers which was its primary intent.

The rationale behind this plea-bargaining, according to police officers, was that in some cases the defendant was willing to plead guilty to a lesser offence. In the remaining cases, it was claimed that the CPS charged the defendant with a lesser crime in order to spare the victim the ordeal of court. Of course, what is not mentioned here is the enormous pressure an innocent man feels under to extricate himself, one way or another. A ‘caution’ or pleading guilty to a lesser crime might seem like a reasonable if not attractive exchange for one’s liberty.

If we want a justice system to have a certain gravitas and respect then the process from beginning to end must contain certain checks and hurdles to handicap the frivolous and maintain a high standard. If having to overcome them requires ‘proofs’ the better will be the system. To do otherwise would be to immediately catapult us into being nothing better than a Banana Republic.



[1]Attrition in rape cases: Developing a profile and identifying relevant factors” (2003). British Journal of Criminology, 43(3), pp. 583–599. Open University

[2] Police Research Series Paper 144, “Murder and Serious Sexual Assault: What criminal histories can reveal about future serious offending“. (2002). See also “Investigating and detecting recorded offences of rape.” (July 2007).


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