Academics are calling for more research into multiple perpetrator rape, which it is thought could be a factor in up to a quarter of sexual assaults committed in the UK.
Dr Miranda Horvath, a senior lecturer at Middlesex University who has done research with the London Metropolitan Police on the issue, said multiple perpetrator rape, often inaccurately referred to as gang rape*, was desperately under-researched and needed more attention to provide practical suggestions to tackle it.
She said: “Multiple perpetrator rape is a problem of national and international significance but it doesn’t receive enough attention.
“The existing research shows that sexual assaults by multiple perpetrators are characterised by greater rates of rape, violence and injury to victims compared to sexual assaults by lone perpetrators.
“By bringing practitioners and international researchers together we can develop more practical initiatives, like programmes to help victims and prevention campaigns. We also need to look into how cases of multiple perpetrator rape are dealt with in the courts.”
Dr Horvath, along with Dr Jessica Woodhams from the University of Birmingham, is organising a series of three seminars funded by the British Psychological Society to share current knowledge and help researchers and practitioners talk to each other. From this, the organisers will develop shared research strategies to explore the psychological processes in multiple perpetrator rape and apply this to practice.
The seminars will be the first time academics from across the world convene to discuss their work in this area. They will also bring together representatives from police forces across the country, those who work first-hand with victims and those who manage offenders.
The academics will also be setting up an international network to share research and bring together work which is highly relevant to the police, victims, the justice system and the treatment of perpetrators.
“This is an area where there is already some excellent work going on but there is still a real need for a coordinated effort to help us move forward in the treatment of victims and offenders,” said Dr Woodhams.
*The term multiple perpetrator rape is used instead of gang rape as the latter gives the false impression the offence always involves members of a gang.