Thursday, April 28, 2011

The False True Rape Claim

In autumn 2010 a woman was given an 8-month jail sentence for retracting an allegation of rape which she maintained had truly happened. The woman originally called the police to say she had been anally, orally and vaginally raped by her husband, who she had been with for nine years. She was taken to a women's refuge and he was charged with six counts of rape.

But in the end, it was the woman herself - the rape victim - who was sent to prison. She had asked to drop the charges - but she had asked to do so because she was being pressured by her husband and his family. She was afraid.

It seems the law enforcement agencies knew about the woman's situation, but they still went ahead and tried her for perjury and wasting police time.

She was freed by the Court of Appeal, which accepted the woman had been subjected to domestic violence. The Lord Chief Justice commented that there should be "a broad measure of compassion for a woman who had already been victimised".
Yes. Victimised once by her husband, then again by the criminal justice system.

But the verdict was not overturned and the woman's custodial sentence was replaced with a two year community sentence. So, although freed from prison, she now has a criminal record and the husband accused of raping her so violently remains at liberty and possesses a clean record.

Thankfully, the Criminal Prosecution Service responded to the public outcry about the case and launched a consultation into its treatment of such situations.

The Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer told an interviewer from the Guardian he felt it was important to restore confidence so victims of rape felt able to tell the police what had happened to them.

Actually creating some confidence where before there was none is what needs to be done. It is daunting enough for rape victims to report their ordeals without the added threat of prosecution if they feel unable to pursue their case.

For the moment, the DPP has asked that any perjury/wasting police time cases relating to rape and/or domestic violence should be referred to him before being taken forward. At the same time, the CPS consultation is continuing and will finish taking opinions on May 6th 2011.

I can only hope that this and the authorities' response to the Stern review into rape cases will start to turn the tide against the rapists. They have been allowed to remain in the ascendant for too long while the victim-count piles up in its thousands. And those victims not only suffer the mental and physical after effects of sexual violence, they are often victimised again by the general public for somehow "deserving" to be raped and in cases like the one mentioned above, victimised once more by the very system that is supposed to support them.

And supposedly, we live in a "civilised" society. It doesn't seem very civilised to me.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Lolita Myth

The parenting website Mumsnet has a campaign underway called Let Girls Be Girls. It aims to dissuade UK retailers from stocking products which contribute to the premature sexualisation of girls.

The age of sexual consent in the UK is sixteen. But a massive grooming exercise has been going on for years, with children who have hardly begun primary school its target. Mumsnet gives a few examples of the items it doesn't want to see on sale to young girls: children's underwear which mimics adult lingerie, 'grown up' heels for little girls, 'sexy' or provocative slogans on clothing...

But the retailers aren't the only ones at it. Children are being bombarded on all sides by the mass media with images and examples of behaviour designed to turn men on. So young girls walk around with T-shirts emblazoned with glittering "Porn Star" slogans or use a Playboy pencil case in the classroom. They are being conditioned into regarding themselves as an object of sexual attraction and being brainwashed into believing their only value lies in how much of a sex object they can be.

So is it the girls' fault that grown men believe them to be fair game in sexual terms? Certain members of the legal profession would certainly think so. Take Judge Peter Fox QC, who gave a paedophile by the name of David Barnes a suspended sentance for online activities (including grooming a young teenager), with the following words:
I accept it has been a dreadful shock to your mother, to your father and to your grandmother and to those others who have known you.
And in addition (to the images), there was your perverted activities over the internet with the 13-year-old, who, I accept, appears to have seduced you.

Or there are the six male footballers, aged between 18 and 21 who raped two twelve year-old girls in Reading in February 2010. The evidence in court showed one of the two girls had exchanged text messages with one of the men to set up a meeting. One of the girls was then raped by five men, the other by one.

Whatever the girls may have said or texted to the men, the issue of consent is clear. Under the age of 16, they are legally unable to give consent, so they were raped.

A local newspaper reported:
The court heard that all six defendants had believed the girls to be at least 16 or 17 although two witnesses in the car recalled one of them saying they were 15 which matched a false date of birth on her Facebook page.

So in fact, the issue of the girls' ages was raised by at least one of the men, although it seems it either didn't occur to him that sex with a fifteen year-old would be viewed as a sexual offence or he simply didn't care. He went ahead, anyway.

In mitigation, defence lawyers raised the following point:
in the circumstances, if the activities had taken place just four weeks later than they had, when the main girl would have turned 13, none of the defendants would have faced any criminal charges because of the defence provided by her actions.

In other words, a girl cannot legally give consent to sex below the age of sixteen. But, going by what those lawyers said in Reading Crown Court, at the age of thirteen a girl can effectively consent to what amounts to her own rape.

So at what age does a male perpetrator actually take responsibility for committing a sex crime? All too often, the answer to that question is depressingly simple.

He doesn't.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

From rape investigator to rape victim

15,165 rapes were reported to the police in England and Wales in the year 2009/2010, according to Home Office figures. Of those, just over eleven hundred were by men.

Recently, one male victim spoke out, the account of his ordeal being published in The Guardian. The victim is also a police officer who had spent fifteen years specialising in serious crime and sexual offences. It gave him a traumatic insight into what rape victims - who are overwhelmingly female - often experience and why so few are willing to take their case to court.

Here is a quote from early on in the article:
...a couple of weeks ago, I made a series of choices that led to me, a heterosexual man, waking up in a man's bed, trapped underneath him. Being raped. I'm still struggling to come to terms with how, despite my decades of professional experience, I made the choices that led to me being raped. At no point the evening before had I felt at risk. At no point did I think I was making a bad decision.

Sadly and in common with many, many other people, this experienced police officer came to the conclusion that the rape was to a large extent his - the victim's - fault. He talks of "choices" and a "bad decision" that led to him being raped. He feels he placed himself in a situation that allowed another man to attack him, rather than laying the blame where it truly belongs: at the door of the rapist.

The rapist made the choice to force himself on his victim, that was the only "bad decision" that was made in the scenario outlined in the article.

The victim was by his own admission very drunk and he woke from his stupor while the rape was in progress. There was no doubt in his mind that he did not give consent to sexual intercourse. And when he mentioned the incident to his boss in the police force, it seems there was no question mark over whether he gave his consent to the act or not. It was simply taken as read that he did not.

Likewise, when the victim refused to co-operate with the police desire to push to prosecute his attacker, there was no suggestion that this was because the allegation was in any way false.

These are his reported words on the reasons why he refused to press charges:
I'm a victim first and a police officer second. I'm not the first victim to decide not to press charges, and I won't be the last. Being a cop means I know the system, and it has scared me off. I know this case would be likely to end in court and, from that point, I couldn't maintain my anonymity. I couldn't cope with the added burden of being a cop as well as a victim.

Let me make it clear: I feel extremely sorry for this rape victim. His was a harrowing ordeal - as all rapes are - and he was left with his self-esteem and emotions in tatters. But I can't help wondering how his case would have been regarded had he been a woman reporting the same scenario. Or a man unknown to the investigating officers.

The article ends with the police officer saying he now has more sympathy and empathy for those victims he has been working with.

What is sad is that it took a rape for him to gain this understanding.