THE BLOG

Cash Machines Can Help Rape Victims Speak Out

20/03/2015 13:13 GMT | Updated 19/05/2015 10:59 BST

Rape and violent sexual assault is a traumatic experience for victims, and often the process of reporting incidents can also be harrowing. It's estimated that across England and Wales, there are at least 75 rapes a day which aren't reported to the police, 38 of these happen in London. There have been almost constant discussions about how to reduce the number of unreported rape incidents - so maybe it's time to consider the role technology could play?

Technology is already revolutionising behaviour, and changing the way we are expected to be able to interact with each other and the services we use. Businesses have been quick to embrace technological advances but public services, especially the criminal justice sector, lag well behind. There is now an expectation that you should be able to do almost anything online or via a mobile application - so why can't you report a serious crime using such technology?

Rape is vastly underreported; estimates compiled using research from the Ministry of Justice, Home Office and the Office for National Statistics suggest that 80 per cent of incidents aren't reported to the police. This means in just the six largest forces in England and Wales, over a two year period, 55,496 rape offences took place but weren't reported.

With software amendments, the UK's network of cash machines has the ability to carry alphanumeric messages - and this could be an opportunity to help the victims of rape report their experiences. With over 36,000 cash machines in the UK, victims would be able to send short text-based messages directly to the police in a discreet way and help them receive assistance from a specialist officer. Such an innovation would help those who may be controlled by their partner, and are fearful of visiting a police station in case they're seen. The best way of introducing this new service for victims would be via sponsorship from a high street bank.

There are also other technological options that could help the victims of rape - namely the introduction of a mobile app which allows them to report their experiences to the police. While there is an app for almost everything, there isn't an official police one which allows people to report crime. The introduction of an application which allowed rape victims the opportunity to discreetly contact the police has a real chance of drastically increasing the number of rapes which are recorded.

No one is claiming to have all the answers when it comes to why people suffering from serious sex crimes don't contact the police - but giving them more ways in which to speak out is an important step.

You can find out more about my work on promoting technology to help increase the reporting of serious sexual assaults in my report: eReport: Improving the reporting of rape using technology.