Rape reports rarely lead to prison; Less than 10% convicted
Victims of rape and other sex crimes have little chance of getting their attacker convicted in the Netherlands. Less than ten percent of victims who go to the police to report a rape see a perpetrator convicted, NRC reports based on figures from the police and Public Prosecution Service (OM). And for those who do end up in court, victims have to wait an average of two years for their case to be completed.
In 2021, the police received a record 2,168 reports of rape and 2,144 of sexual assault. In the same year, Dutch courts convicted 195 perpetrators of rape and 234 of sexual assault. According to NRC, victim lawyers, politicians, scientific researchers, and prosecutors all say that criminal law is not the place to get justice if you were raped or sexually assaulted.
The average waiting time of two years is psychologically taxing on victims, especially because the authorities rarely keep them informed about what is happening, experts said to NRC. And if a perpetrator is actually brought to court, "he often gets off with a suspended sentence because the sword of Damocles hung over his head for so long," victim lawyer Nelleke Stolk said to the newspaper. "That is indigestible for the victims. That is why I ask the victims: are you sure you can handle this?"
NRC spoke to several victims of sexual violence who said that they would "never" go to the police again if they were raped or assaulted again. One woman who reported rape in 2020 is still waiting for her case to be completed. "My perpetrator is simply walking around free. That feels like a real danger. I was stalked, threatened with death, assaulted, and raped. When we get to court soon, the chances of him getting away with it are huge. And then what?"
The police and OM don't have the trained staff to handle the many sexual violence cases reported to them. Victim lawyers told NRC that the authorities' investigations into sex crimes are sloppy, they wait too long to collect evidence, and they are careless towards victims. The lawyers also believe the bar in criminal law is unattainably high, with the burden of proof for crimes that often happen behind closed doors resting with the victim. Rarely are there enough witnesses or evidence to prosecute successfully, they said.