Middlesex University conference hears from international sex crime experts
A leading commentator on sexual violence prevention has warned that, following many years of progress, the way society deals with sexual violence could now be hampering efforts to prevent it.
Forensic Psychologist Dr Karen Franklin told delegates that sexual violence was a ‘global pandemic of catastrophic proportions’, but that the way society perceives both criminals and victims - and a new emphasis on costly programmes to target and incapacitate a small number of offenders – would not see meaningful reductions in violence and the harm it causes.
Less than one in ten sex crimes reported in the UK lead to a conviction, and it’s believed that many sex crimes are never reported to the police at all. Dr Franklin commented that this wouldn’t change until the perception of people who commit sex crimes, and their victims, changes too.
“Successful prosecution is more difficult where the attacker doesn’t resemble the bogeyman. It is as if sex crimes can only either be made up by the victim or involve a stranger with a knife.”
“Most often, the weapon of choice is the bottle of alcohol.”
Dr Franklin, an independent practitioner from San Francisco and Professor at Alliant International University, also warned that though spending millions hunting down small numbers of offenders and imprisoning them or enrolling them in costly rehabilitation problems had a role to play, is was also often driven by “public fear and political opportunism”.
“A higher priority should be preventing sex crimes, for instance interventions to prevent childhood abuse and neglect or services that deal with alcohol problems - services that can fall under the budget axe. Interventions at the criminal justice stage are no more than a Band Aid.”
The Sexual Violence Conference at Middlesex University welcomed delegates from across the police, healthcare, charity sector and academia.
Dr Miranda Horvath, one of the conference organisers and senior lecturer in forensic psychology at Middlesex University said: “Across the UK, thousands of sex crimes are committed every week many of them going unreported.
There are many professionals working hard to prevent sexual violence or deal with the consequences but we can't afford to work in isolation. We need to keep coming up with practical ideas and sharing research into why people commit these crimes and how we can stop them happening in the first place.”
The conference featured a wide range of presentations on issues from sexual violence prevention, to date-rape and multi perpetrator (gang) rape.