More than half of all rape cases are dropped by the person making the allegation in Cumbria, figures reveal.
Sexual abuse victims across England and Wales often face lengthy court delays.
Home Office data shows that of the 253 rape investigations closed by Cumbria Constabulary between April and September last year, 77 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 – 23 compared to 230 – and were less likely to drop their case.
The figures also show that just five per cent of rape cases closed by Cumbria Constabulary in that period resulted in a charge or summons.
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 Cumbria, 53 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.”
Criminal Bar Association chairman James Mulholland QC called for a reset of criminal justice resourcing, saying: “The principal reason why complainants in sexual allegation cases are walking away rests with a lack of prosecution resources and delays of years, which prevent the vast majority of such allegations progressing through to charge and trial.”
He said delays across the justice system have fuelled an “unacceptable” rise in rape and other violent offences falling apart after allegations are made to police.
A Government spokesman said it would work with forces to improve the investigation and prosecution of rape offences and do all it could 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 spokesman added.