Drunk rape victims do not have unreliable memories

Their accounts of sexual assault shouldn’t be questioned, say experts


Drunk victims of sex crimes can remember their attack just as well as those who were sober, according to a new study. 

There are concerns police might not interview victims if they were drunk and lawyers might seek to question the accuracy of their account.

So researchers looked at the way alcohol influenced women’s ability to remember a sex attack to combat the question of accuracy when testimonies are given.

They were quizzed about an “interactive hypothetical” situation both 24 hours and four months after it occurred.

The study from the University of Leicester was taken to question the “misconception that intoxicated victims and witnesses and unreliable”.

Shockingly, a third of young people think drunken rape victims are to blame.

The shocking figures, revealed by the Office of National Statistics, show young people are more likely to blame rape victims for drinking than older generations.

One in three 16 to 19-year-olds think rape victims are “at least a little bit responsible” if they have been drinking.

drink victims

Dr Heather Flowe, who led the research at Leicester, said: “When a victim is intoxicated during the crime, questions about the accuracy of testimony are raised in the minds of criminal investigators. Out of these concerns, the police might forgo interviewing victims who were intoxicated during the offence.

“On the other hand, almost always in sexual offences, the victim is the only one who can provide information about the crime to investigators.”

Although the study found victims who were drunk reported fewer pieces of information, the overall accuracy was no different than with those who were sober.

Detective Inspector Reme Gibson from Leicestershire Police’s Rape Investigation Unit said: “It has been a long held misconception that victims and witnesses who are intoxicated are not able to give as good an account as they would when they are sober.

“The delays in speaking with victims accounts sometimes for loss of potential evidence, although alcohol is not the only factor that would influence whether or not an officer would interview a victim.”

He said working with the research team was a “huge benefit to our understanding of the effects alcohol has on memory”.