Nearly two-thirds of all rape cases are dropped by victims in Hertfordshire
And 88 per cent of cases between April and September last year were dropped due to problems gathering evidence
Nearly two-thirds of all rape cases are dropped by the person making the allegation in Hertfordshire, figures reveal.
Sexual abuse victims across England and Wales often face lengthy court delays.
Experts say they risk being re-traumatised by their experiences of the criminal justice system and many give up on seeking justice because they feel as though they are not believed or that they are the ones under investigation.
Home Office data shows that of the 398 rape investigations closed by Hertfordshire Constabulary between April and September last year, 88 per cent were dropped due to problems gathering evidence.
In most of those cases, police said that the alleged victim no longer supported the investigation. A suspect had already been identified in 76 per cent of them.
Men, who are typically less likely to report rape, made far fewer allegations than women – 33 compared to 365 – and were less likely to drop their case.
The figures also show that just seven per cent of rape cases closed by Hertfordshire Constabulary in that period resulted in a charge or summons.
Detective Chief Inspector Anna Wright, from Hertfordshire Constabulary’s Safeguarding Command, said: “Hertfordshire Constabulary takes all reports of sexual assault seriously, no matter who the victim is or what the surrounding circumstances are.
"We will always do absolutely everything we can to bring cases to court and offenders to justice.
"We currently have one of the highest conviction rates in the country and we are committed to improving this further.
“Rape investigations are often complex and take time to investigate, while also liaising with the CPS around bringing cases to court.
“We fully understand that the court process can be extremely daunting.
"However, I would like to reassure victims that we have specialist officers on hand to provide advice and support throughout.
“While in most cases early reporting gives us the chance to capture best evidence, we will always do whatever we can to investigate an offence, no matter how long ago it occurred.”
Charity Rape Crisis and the Criminal Bar Association say lengthy delays within the criminal justice system contribute to the growing issue, a problem exacerbated by court delays linked to the coronavirus pandemic.
Figures for the whole of England and Wales – excluding Greater Manchester – show that 42 per cent of rape investigations closed in the year to September 2020 were abandoned after those who reported attacks withdrew their support, while just 1.5 per cent resulted in a charge or summons.
In Hertfordshire, 60 per cent of all rape cases closed over six months were dropped because victims did not support further action.
A Rape Crisis spokeswoman said it is common for people to withdraw from investigations.
She added: “It wasn’t uncommon pre-pandemic for survivors to have to wait two years or more between reporting and their case reaching court.
"That is a very long time to effectively have to keep the memory of what might have been the most traumatic experience of a person’s life to date at the forefront of their thoughts.
“As well as this, the criminal justice process itself is too often re-traumatising for victims and survivors, who tell us they don’t always feel believed or even that they feel like they’re the ones under investigation rather than the suspect.”
A Government spokesperson said it would work with forces to improve the investigation and prosecution of rape offences and do "all it can" to restore faith in the justice system.
“We expect every report of rape to be treated seriously from the point of disclosure, every victim to be treated with dignity and every investigation and every prosecution to be conducted thoroughly and professionally," the spokesperson added.