We cannot comment directly on the Rhiannon Brooker case as we have not been involved in it. Our concern is that the result of this case does not reinforce the myth that false rape allegations are common. Only 0.6%1 of prosecutions following allegations of rape are proved to be false.
SARSAS are contacted by 3-5 new women each week for support around rape or sexual abuse. Many choose not to report to the police due to fears that they won’t be believed. The myth that women often lie about rape is harmful to women, society, and contributes to very low conviction rates for sexual offences. It is estimated that only 10-15% of rapes get reported to the police.
With regards to the sentencing for false allegations SARSAS believes that sentences for ‘false allegations’ should not be longer than the sentences given to those found guilty of perpetrating sexual offences.
The CPS and Avon & Somerset Police have informed SARSAS that it is very rare for cases to be taken forward for false allegations following a withdrawal of complaint. With this in mind we hope that this case does not make rape survivors think that they cannot reach out for support for fear of being forced to go to court or face prosecution for a false allegation.
Lisa Benjamin, Volunteer, Training and Information Officer at SARSAS said:
“There are many reasons that someone may not complete the reporting process, withdrawing an allegation does not mean it is a false one. The reporting process can be long and challenging and it is important for people to know that there is support out there for them whether they wish to report or not.”
Debbie Burunou, Centre Manager at The Bridge Sexual Assault Referral Centre said:
“Miss Brooker did avail herself of the services offered at The Bridge and as with all people who make a complaint of sexual assault she was dealt with in a compassionate and supportive manner by all who came into contact with her both from the Bridge and from the police who initially referred her to us.
Having myself worked in the Criminal Justice System for over 25 years, I know that false allegations are thankfully rare, which is why they generally attract so much media attention.
The services of The Bridge are available to anyone (male or female) who requires them either with or without police involvement. We are contactable 24 hours a day and I would urge anyone to reach out for help if they need it.”