Ooxford anti-violence groups have raised concerns about a new report on rape and sexual violence, which suggests that despite falling crime rates in the Thames Valley area, cases of dropped charges remain high.The report, produced on behalf of the Rape Monitoring Group, found that the number of recorded rapes of both adults and children has risen steadily in England and Wales since 2008. In the Thames Valley, however, eight per cent of these cases are dropped without further investigation, compared to only two per cent of all victim based crimes. This practice of dismissing charges is commonly referred to as ‘no criming’.Responding to the report, anti-violence responders and activists expressed worry about the lack of sexual violence awareness in Oxfordshire. Natalie Brook of the Oxford Sexual Abuse and Rape Crisis Centre (OSARCC), commented, “If justice is to be achieved for survivors of sexual violence, more must be done to build confidence that those who have experienced rape and sexual abuse will be believed and supported when they report.”Specifically, she stressed the importance of providing Independent Sexual Violence Advisors, “who provide independent advocacy and practical support”. However, according to Brook, there are no Independent Sexual Violence Advisors in Oxfordshire, which may affect some victims’ unwillingness to report crimes.Speaking to Cherwell, Sarah Pine, OUSU’s Vice President for Women, suggested that many cases get dismissed because “most instances of sexual violence happen in the home, and don’t fit within the structure of witnesses, etc. that the police want to force onto [sexual violence cases].”Pine added that “the legal wording of ‘reasonable belief’ of consent, rather than belief beyond reasonable doubt, means that the police and rapists can use body language, consent being given on previous occasions, and the absence of a ‘no’ (rather than the presence of a ‘yes’) as reasons to argue that no offence was committed.” In a national context, Oxfordshire’s “no criming” rates are relatively low. According to police data, the proportion of sexual violence cases that are dismissed is significantly higher in other regions. In Lincolnshire, 33 per cent of alleged rape cases are dropped.The Rape Monitoring Group report itself notes that accurate data on rape and sexual violence is difficult to come by due to extremely low reporting rates by those who have experienced sexual violence, often because they fear that they will not be believed.The report also states that the police work to prevent rape and wants to encourage more survivors to come forward and report rapes. “Improving the police’s ability to investigate, solve and prosecute cases of rape is dependent upon attending to, and improving, many elements of rape investigations,” it reads.Aylon Cohen, also of Oxford’s It Happens Here Campaign, commented, “The problem goes far deeper than simply a culture of disbelief when it comes to sexual violence.”According to Cohen, police often “investigate the victim instead of her rapist, accusing her of lying and wasting police time, and ultimately pressure her to retract and even prosecute her for perverting the course of justice.”Cohen added that It Happens Here released a zine last year about sexual violence, which outlined several suggestions about how to better serve survivors in Oxford. Among them was the need to improve access to Sexual Assault Referral Centers (SARCs). Pine says that a SARC “is the only place where people can get immediate medical and forensic support without going to the police.” However, the nearest SARC is in Slough, an hour outside of Oxford. Pine believes that colleges should provide free taxis to and from Slough until there is an Oxford SARC.Other suggestions include having colleges and departments establish better policies to respond to sexual violence, training for common room welfare and women’s officers, and mediation resolution training for those who want to reach an informal resolution.According to Cohen, consent workshops can also help prevent sexual violence. However, he expressed concerns about Oxford’s wider culture of sexual safety.“Events that encourage people to treat women as sexual objects, like college ‘beauty’ contests, over-sexualised crew dates, and sports teams’ initiations that degrade women not only create a student body that disrespects the boundaries of their peers, but also support a rape culture that normalises sexual violence,” Cohen said.