Hitchens: drunk raped women ‘deserve less sympathy’


by Newswire    
6:16 pm - March 16th 2009

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From his Daily Mail column today, erm, last year:

Women who get drunk are more likely to be raped than women who do not get drunk. No, this does not excuse rape. Men who take advantage of women by raping them, drunk or sober, should be severely punished for this wicked, treacherous action, however stupid the victim may have been.

But it does mean that a rape victim who was drunk deserves less sympathy. Simple, isn’t it? You can hate rape and want it punished, while still recognising that a woman who, say, goes back to a man’s home after several Bacardi Breezers was being a bit dim.

via Chickyog on Twitter

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Reader comments


Right, who’s got the effigy of Hitchens ready?

But it does mean that a rape victim who was drunk deserves less sympathy. Simple, isn’t it? You can hate rape and want it punished, while still recognising that a woman who, say, goes back to a man’s home after several Bacardi Breezers was being a bit dim.

I suppose the thing is, did she say no?

Drunken, regrettable sex isn’t rape. Unless she says she doesn’t want to. IMHO.

3. Shatterface

And it’s apparently ‘hysterical ultrafeminist propaganda’ to believe that raping a woman too drunk to defend herself as as bad as raping someone who is sober.

What a total piece of shit.

Ultrafeminists are feminists who emit light of a higher frequency than other feminists, right?

Neat.

(cannot BRING self to comment on article itself. God, Hitchens, every time I think I’d lost the ability to be surprised.)

5. Shatterface

Jesus, he even draws a parallel with traffic accidents – as if being drunk while in charge of a vagina should be made a criminal offence.

6. Fellow Traveller

Never mind booze (it leads to unconsciousness and vomiting). Cocaine is where it’s at when it comes to getting women to do anything (and I mean anything) sexual.

Which is why rich men make sure they’ve got piles of the stuff around for the ladies.

I wonder how many men commit rape when they are drunk, or at least have had a few drinks in side of them . Should we feel less sympathy for them?

In the right wing world, rape is acceptable.

8. Mike Killingworth

The simple way to stop drunken women being raped is to change the definition of consent. By insisting that only consent at the time is required, we have a law that is more concerned to protect men from blackmail than it is to protect women from rape.

9. the a&e charge nurse

The present study indicates that 1 in 20 college women experienced rape since the beginning of the school year.
Moreover, 72% of these rapes occurred when victims were so intoxicated that they were unable to consent.
Certain women are at increased risk of being raped while intoxicated, particularly those who attend colleges with higher levels of heavy episodic drinking and who belong to or
live in sororities.

The high pro-portion of rapes found to occur when women were intoxicated indicates
the need for alcohol prevention programs on campuses that address sexual assault, both to educate men about what constitutes rape and to advise women of risky situations.
The findings that some campus environments are associated with higher levels of both drinking and rape will help target rape prevention programs at colleges.
(Journal of Studies on Alcohol 65: 37-45, 2004)

10. Shatterface

Reading Hitchens is a little like walking in on your grandad when he’s having a wank.

#2 – you serious? You can’t presume consent just because someone doesn’t say no.

If you’re just using someone for your own gratification, and think they may not have had sex with you if you were sober, it serves you right if you end up being prosecuted. IMHO.

12. Shatterface

Tim f (12): not sure if that second paragraph means what you intended it to mean.

whoops! well spotted.

Wonder how we would feel if he was raped after a few pints, having gone back to a friend of his for what he thought was a friendly chat…

There is a reasonable point to be made about prudent actions being the first line of self-defence, but Hitchens’ claim isn’t it.

@8 Mike

As a current Law student, I’d argue that this isn’t true in the current state of the law – though I will heartily agree that it was true in the past.

Drunk rape victims already face the fact that juries are all too frequently made up of people who feel the same as Hitchens to some degree, the last thing we need is for the law reflect this feeling as well.

Hitchens is showing the traditional signs of becoming more and more right wing (I don’t feel comfortable that this is the correct term at all) as he gets older and fatter.

I do wonder why anyone listens to Hitchens or gives him a platform. It’s not just that his views are obnoxious, or that he is obnoxious – it’s just that he’s an idiot. His views just don’t stack up to a moment’s scrutiny. The man is no more deserving of a platform than the average man in the pub spouting his views to all who will listen.

17. Mike Killingworth

[16] Care to expand, James?

18. Shatterface

His focus on compensation (i.e. money) makes it seem like he believes drunk women are being rewarded for being raped.

He’s fucked up on almost every level.

Since the passing of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, the mens rea (mental element) required to commit the crime of rape has changed.

Before the act, a defendant was innocent of rape if could be proven that they had knowledge the victim was consenting or an honest belief that they were.

Since the SOA 2003, rape is proven if the defendant had intercourse with the victim in the absence of reasonable belief that the victim consented. This creates a ‘reasonable man’ objective test for whether consent is given.

This places the onus more on the jury to decide whether it was reasonable to believe that the victim consented. Previously, the defence only had to prove that the attacker believed consent was being given – hypothetically <2003, one could attack someone and if one were deranged enough to honestly believe the person was consenting, then one was not guilty of rape (this is a drastic exaggeration, but I’m worried my point might not come across).

Like I said, the victim is still at the mercy of the jury (especially in drink and drugs related rapes), but the law is better worded to favour the victim over the attacker.

Very interesting paper on this subject:
http://bjc.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/reprint/45/1/25

20. EnuffEnuff

Do we think dangerous driving illegal and should be punished. Yes. Do we punish less harshly the dangerous driver who hits a car driven by a drunk driver that is slewed across two lanes of the motorway – yes we do.

Do we think that car theft is crime and should be punished. Yes. Do we feel less sympathy for the car owner who left his car unlocked every Friday night and it got stolen – yes we do. Less sympathy.
Do we like the car stealers – no we don’t.

Do we think stealing from handbags and ruck sacks is illegal and should be punished. Yes. Do we feel less sympathy for the person nwho is a victim of theft when they left their bag at teh bar when they went to the loo. Yes we do.

Is attacking a student on the way home illegal and… Yes. Do we feel less sympathy for the bloke walking home totally pissed, on his own, and taking 2 hours to do a 30 minute walk and getting roughed up on the way. Yes we do.

Are there unpleasant men out there who will take advantage of a drunk women if they can. Yes. Should they have the full force of the law set against them Yes. Do we feel less sympathy for the women who got drunk and made it easier to be preyed on by such men. Yes we do.

It’s only common sense – taking responsibility for your self.

If you value your car – lock it. If you value your body, don’t get pissed and make it easy for bad guys to misuse it.

Prevention is better than the law administering justice after the act has happened.

“Do we feel less sympathy for the bloke walking home totally pissed, on his own, and taking 2 hours to do a 30 minute walk and getting roughed up on the way. Yes we do.”

No, crime is crime. The only time this statement is correct is when the said drunk is being aggressive and provokes an assault (which the law takes into account).

Just being drunk doesn’t mean you should get assaulted or raped – and the fact that someone is shouldn’t change in any way the sympathy you feel for them.

22. EnuffEnuff

James

so is that the only one of my examples that you don’t agree with?

23. EnuffEnuff

James

> Just being drunk doesn’t mean you should get assaulted or raped

We all agree with that. So not worth saying really.

But if you think that being drunk and incapable doesn’t increase the chance of you being robbed, attacked or raped…. then I’d love to hear your evidence.

It was the only one I felt had any real relation to the point in question.

“Do we think dangerous driving illegal and should be punished. Yes. Do we punish less harshly the dangerous driver who hits a car driven by a drunk driver that is slewed across two lanes of the motorway – yes we do.”

When does this EVER HAPPEN?

“Do we think that car theft is crime and should be punished. Yes. Do we feel less sympathy for the car owner who left his car unlocked every Friday night and it got stolen – yes we do. Less sympathy. Do we like the car stealers – no we don’t.”

Only relevant if we’re talking about a woman who habitually gets incredibly drunk and follows predatory men home. Unlikely.

“Do we think stealing from handbags and ruck sacks is illegal and should be punished. Yes. Do we feel less sympathy for the person nwho is a victim of theft when they left their bag at the bar when they went to the loo. Yes we do.”

Come on. This is nothing like rape other than that they’re both illegal.

Leaving your handbag unattended or your car unlocked are both far more careless than simply having a drink or two.

“But if you think that being drunk and incapable doesn’t increase the chance of you being robbed, attacked or raped…. then I’d love to hear your evidence.”

That’s not really the question though is it? It’s whether someone ‘deserves less sympathy’ simply because they were drunk.

To which I would answer no, just because you’re drunk doesn’t suddenly make it your fault.

26. the a&e charge nurse

James – do you remember the TV show “Hypotheticals” ?
It was on, Beeb2 I think.

One program dealt with rape and the final question (to a lawyer) who was one of the various professionals on the panel was:

What would you do if your client turned to you (after being acquitted) and said:
“next time I rape a woman, I want you defend me again”.

Another question (this time put to a judge) was:
would you permit a question about what type of knickers the woman was wearing ?

Don’t be too hard on the jury – I’m sure most members of the public are very concerned to arrive at a fair decision.

27. Shatterface

EnuffEnuff: There’s a vast difference in indulging in behaviour which puts you in a vulnerable position, and deserving to be raped.

You should step back ten paces so that you can get a good run up before you go fuck yourself.

@27

Agreed. Sorry if I was coming off as if I had no faith in juries, I really do, and also in the skill of the CPS to spot jurors who’d be of the attitude professed by Hitchens.

29. EnuffEnuff

James

> To which I would answer no, just because you’re drunk doesn’t suddenly make it your fault.

Again , this is a straw man argument. No one is saying the victim is to blame for the actions of the criminal.

But if the statistics are that you’re more likey to get raped when drunk than sober – then yes the women has ‘taken less care’ of herself than she could have.

> Only relevant if we’re talking about a woman who habitually gets incredibly drunk and follows predatory men home. Unlikely.

Why paint such a silly scenario – as if the predatory men have labels round their necks saying so and she is stupid to have gone with them.

The point is, she lost control of herself. The criminal didn’t do that. She did that.

> Leaving your handbag unattended or your car unlocked are both far more careless than simply having a drink or two.

Sounds like you’re agreeing with me – getting drunk is not mere carelessness – but actively putting yourself in a situation where the chances of coming to harm are higher.

I have young kids, I hope to show them how to be street smart – which means locking their bicycles more often than not. Not having big money notes in their pockets… walking with purpose down the road etc etc

Prevention is better than cure

“Sounds like you’re agreeing with me – getting drunk is not mere carelessness – but actively putting yourself in a situation where the chances of coming to harm are higher.”

Er.. no. I said the other two are examples of being careless, getting drunk isn’t.

31. EnuffEnuff

Shatterface

> There’s a vast difference in indulging in behaviour which puts you in a vulnerable position, and deserving to be raped.

No-one deserves to be raped. I agree with you 100% there.

But some women believe in prevention – and by their choices they are much less likely to be raped.

Other women make other choices – choosing the fun of getting pissed and out of control – over and above a sensible self-protection.

The man who take advantage of them should have the book thrown at them.

But it’s silly to think that putting yourself in harms way does not have consequences.

You can get away with it once or hundreds of times, but statistically, it’s not a smart choice.

32. EnuffEnuff

James

> Er.. no. I said the other two are examples of being careless, getting drunk isn’t.

Not sure I follow your point there.
Can you expand?

Were you agreeing or disagreeing with me when I said a women getting drunk in public is
> actively putting yourself in a situation where the chances of coming to harm are higher.”

“Other women make other choices – choosing the fun of getting pissed and out of control – over and above a sensible self-protection.

The man who take advantage of them should have the book thrown at them.

But it’s silly to think that putting yourself in harms way does not have consequences.

You can get away with it once or hundreds of times, but statistically, it’s not a smart choice.”

Damn these outrageous women! Wanting to enjoy their lives without fear of being sexually assaulted every time they have a drink! Those wanton whores!

They should just stay at home and read the Bible. Prevention is better than cure.

34. EnuffEnuff

Reminds me of a prison chaplain I met yesterday – who told me of the time that a muslim inmate,convicted of raping his wife, asked him ‘where are the verses in the bible that say a man can rape his wife’. And was disappointed when he was disabused of his notion.

For some women, the dangerous men aren’t just out there…. but at home too…

That’s tough.

But for most women – getting drunk and out of control in public is something they could avoid and it would reduce their risk.

Prevention is better than cure

Yes, prevention would be men not raping women. Or did that not occur to you?

36. EnuffEnuff

James

You ignored the questions?

And nothing you said added to the issue, so I assume you hadn’t wanted a reply.

But something you queried earlier:

“Do we think dangerous driving illegal and should be punished. Yes. Do we punish less harshly the dangerous driver who hits a car driven by a drunk driver that is slewed across two lanes of the motorway – yes we do.”

> When does this EVER HAPPEN?

In the news this month – Lord Ahmed – let out after just 2 weeks of a 12 week sentence, or something like that. He killed a driver, just minutes earlier he had been texting and driving. But because the driver he killed was drunk and had already got his car into a stupid and dangerous position, Ahmad was convicted of dangerous driving but sentenced very lightly.

37. EnuffEnuff

Sunny

> Yes, prevention would be men not raping women. Or did that not occur to you?

But that’s not a choice a women can make. She doesn’t control all men.
But she does control her own alcohol intake.

Just the same way, that when I’m driving, I can’t assume there are no careless or worse drivers on the road.

So if I value my life, I drive in what used to be called ‘defensive driving’ – ie you don’t assume the other guy has seen you, you always assume they haven’t.

Such driving is especially important for motor cyclists – we have the most to lose – bt having a metal box.

In the same way, a women out of control on alcohol has more to lose than a 6ft rugby player.

So the only ‘prevention is cure’ open to her, is to ‘drink defensively’.

Any other course of action and she is handing over responsibility for her body to the statistics on rape and violent crime: she may be OK, she may get unlucky.
But he figures quored earlier in ths thread, show she’s what 4 times more at risk when drunk.

It’s her choice, but she chooses the risks.

“It’s her choice, but she chooses the risks.”

It’s the rapists choice, and he chooses to rape.

39. EnuffEnuff

PC

>It’s the rapists choice, and he chooses to rape.

And the full force of the law should be thrown against him.
He is the guilty party.
She does not deserve to have been raped.

Agree 100%.
We ALL agree with that – so can we agree not to keep saying it?

But you’re not disagreeing that we all take responsibility for the decisions we make.

Imagine yourself with 18 year old twins going off to university / new towns somewhere.

What advise do you give your daughter?
It won’t be the same advice you give your son.

You tell her it’s her life and her choices – but that getting legless greatly increases her chance of being attacked/ robbed/ raped.

You’d probably tell both kids that using condoms greatly reduces the chances of getting AIDS.

The facts are not controversial: young women are drinking alot more alcohol than 20 years ago – that binge drinking has increased hugely, hospitals report women as young as 35 with severe sclerosis (sp?) of the liver – women who thought they ‘just enjoyed a lot at the weekend’ shocked to discover their body has already been damaged.

.

“Just the same way, that when I’m driving, I can’t assume there are no careless or worse drivers on the road.”

The relevant preventative strategy in your woefully poor analogy would be for you to stop driving altogether.

Of course, it isn’t just drunk women who are partially responsible for getting raped. If women would only stay in the house they would drastically limit their chances of getting raped (except by other members of the household – but of course that isn’t as bad as stranger rape). Any woman who goes out of the house is failing to take preventative action to stop herself getting raped.

Enuff, you are victim blaming. This is not Victorian times and women have a right to drink and socialize without being held responsible for their own rapes. They are not ‘partly’ to blame for anything – that lies with the rapist. Binge drinking/ sclerosis of the liver etc are different issues.

And stop talking about men as if we are some sort of uncontrollable beasts that cannot control ourselves around drunk women. It’s insulting.

And yes, I would issue warning to my daughter re her safely but if she was raped, I don’t care how drunk she was I would not hold her responsible what so ever.

“For some women, the dangerous men aren’t just out there…. but at home too…

That’s tough.

But for most women – getting drunk and out of control in public is something they could avoid and it would reduce their risk.”

Oh Gods… I don’t even know where to start.

* makes sure the ticky box remains unticked because she doesn’t have enough spoons to deal with this *

I’ll give you a hand there, Jennie.

‘But you’re not disagreeing that we all take responsibility for the decisions we make.’

Exactly. So, by that token, men shouldn’t leave the house either. As we ladies are so often told when we attempt to discuss rape and DV publicly, men get violently assaulted by other men too…

Keep it simple. Let’s none of us leave the house. Ever. Then, when we are eventually driven to eating each other by the desperate hunger, we can comfort ourselves on the fact that we ‘took responsibility’ by not putting ourselves in any sort of danger! :D

*claps EnuffEnuff on the back* THANK YOU. You have just solved the population problem, climate change, violent crime and potentially, world hunger too.

Going out, flaunting himself in the Mail like that, every single little reactionary crevice showing…….he’s FUCKING ASKING FOR IT! Give him one from me son!

47. vicarious phil

Leaving aside Hitchens article, it’s in the Mail, it’s tone and content shouldn’t surprise anyone.

And accepting that the answer to sexual violence lies in changing attitudes/behaviour of those who offend or are likely to in future.

What’s wrong with suggesting that people, and men do get raped, (though far less often and the moralising tends to target women) reduce their exposure to risk? In the week that a hot topic is minimum pricing for alcohol perhaps if we look at the risk of rape in the context of other risks of harm we can see that it is not unreasonable to highlight the effect of excessive drinking.

If I warn my daughter of the risks of alcohol and I include the risk she could get sexaully assaulted. It isn’t because I’m ever going to blame her if the worst happens, it’s because I love her and want to protect from the assholes out in the big bad world.

The creepiest part of Hitchens’ article is this:-

“If women want to dress provocatively, then they should be free to do so, and I say thanks a lot to those who do.”

You would think this jaunty “yo-ho-ho I enjoy it really, just like all you lads!” tone sits rather uneasily with his otherwise ultra-censorious “modesty for all” Victoriana. After all, if women getting drunk and wearing short skirts means they shouldn’t be shown as much sympathy when they get raped – the whole point of his article – then surely a Conservative Culture Warrior shouldn’t celebrate the fact when they do – however humorously?

Its one thing to blast against all traces of the modern sexual world, Mary Whitehouse-like. That is at least consistent. But when he does this warped Jeckyll and Hyde act…….an unsympathetic observer could conclude it means he could perhaps be urging the rapists on in a fetid little corner of his mind. That he might be enjoying it. I’m sure he isn’t of course. But what am I supposed to think? The signals were all there…….

49. Hungry Horace

This story is from the 16th of August 2008.

But that’s not a choice a women can make. She doesn’t control all men.
But she does control her own alcohol intake.

This is in fact the exact argument that misogynists in the Middle East make when they force women to cover up. Of course, there, the alcohol isn’t used as an excuse.

Peter Hitchens is in fact echoing the same line that the Saudi Kingdom does. Maybe he’ll be better off living there.

HH – whoops, amended.

Don’t worry, I doubt the Hitch has changed his stance – the daft pillock.

Aaron – although Peter is Christopher’s brother, I think it is only the latter who is referred to as “the Hitch”.

It would be interesting to hear the opinion of the average woman (I don’t mean Penny!) on the issue of sympathy.

How much sympathy do I have for a legless victim?
If coldly manipulated into getting drunk by a man who himself remained completely sober, then the answer is obvious.
But I suspect that both parties in such cases are pretty far gone, aren’t they?
In which case my sympathy does slip just a little.

Enuf

I don’t think anyone is saying that some people do end up more vulnerable to rape due to alcohol intake, of course they do, when under the influence your decision making is impared and your reactions also. That’s just the way it is. However…..

1. Why should anyone have to? Rape is still rape. It is still the rapist who has chosen to comit the crime and it is still their fault and no one else.

2. Surely the level of sympathy should relate to how much the victims suffers? And regardless of whether the victim of rape was stone cold sober in a well lit street and carrying a rape alarm or pissed out their skull in a back alley they will still suffer appauling physical and mental trauma from the experience and in my view are deserving of the same sympathy.

A real example for you. About 10 days ago I had my pocket picked on the tube. I could have done more to make myself less vulnerable. I had my wallett in my hip pocket and was looking after a bunch of cubs at the time so was distracted. I could have put it in my inside coat pocket but I didn’t. Now as it happens there was nothing of sentimental value in it and I got my cards stopped before they were used. Now I reckon that I am deserving of the same level of sympathy (ie minimal, because I’ve suffered nothing more than inconvenience) as if I’d had it in my inside pocket and had one of those aresholes that bump into you and go for the inside pocket.

If however i had been robbed of my wallett at knife point (a far more traumatic experience I’m sure you’ll agree) I think I would be deserving of a much larger level of sympathy regardless of what precautions I may or may not have taken.

Stop jumping on the victims and remember who the real villians are here.

54. Mike Killingworth

We still seem to be skirting around the issue. Rape is defined as “unlawful sexual
intercourse with a woman who at the time of the intercourse does not consent to
it.” The crucial mental element required for rape is that at the time of intercourse
the man either knows that the woman did not consent to it or “is reckless as to
whether she consents to it.”

I suspect that in a lot of cases a drunk woman may well say something like “do what you like”, “I don’t care”, “you’re going to anyway aren’t you” or “I can’t stop you” any of which he will take for consent when it isn’t really – the “reasonableness” test doesn’t seem to me to get us very far here. And indeed the assumption that she can remember exactly what she said is just that – an assumption. (BTW I am a little confused by the wording of the law, since I do not understand what is unlawful about the intercourse apart from the lack of consent, but perhaps that’s not important.)

Now, I’m not a lawyer (as is probably obvious by now) but I don’t see why there couldn’t be some other ground for intercourse being rape such as “where the woman is under the influence of drink or drugs and a reasonable man would have grounds for doubting her capacity to give informed consent”. Then, the offence could be proven merely by showing that intercourse had taken place (I doubt this is often in question) and by her giving a witness statement that she was off her face at the time – she wouldn’t even need to attend court.

Of course, this does raise other issues. There is a widespread desire to have consensual sex whilst rat-assed, for a start. More particularly, refusal to have sexual intercourse is AIUI prima facie evidence of unreasonable behaviour and grounds for divorce – which certainly places the husbands of alcoholic women in a difficult position if the reform I suggest were to be adopted.

Feel free to shoot this down!

55. Luis Enrique

As it happens, I’ve just been burgled. We didn’t have security lights at the back of the house, and we hadn’t set the alarm because the cat sets it off [both problems now rectified]. These things raised the risk of being burgled; whether I deserve any less sympathy is almost a matter of taste – I was just as upset about being burgled as I think I would have been had the alarm been on, but I can see how somebody might have less sympathy with me. Prevention is better than cure – does Sunny’s response at @36 make sense here? “prevention would be men not burgling houses in the first place”.

If I’d gotten drunk and then gotten raped, I can see the argument that my risk-raising behaviour might mitigate somebody’s sympathy towards me, but if one’s emotional responses are a matter of taste than I think anybody who is unsympathetic toward drunken rape victims has disgusting taste. I can see the argument, but I think it’s a revolting response, and I think any decent person’s sympathy would be undimmed. I think it’s possible to acknowledge the logic in what Enuff is saying, while at the same time saying that only a despicable person would in practice actually be less sympathetic toward a rape victim because they were drunk, on the basis of that logic.

Nick @15 has it right.

56. rightwinger

His focus on compensation (i.e. money) makes it seem like he believes drunk women are being rewarded for being raped.

If you’d actually read the column, you would see that he thinks compensation is a dangerous replacement for actual justice. As do I.

His point is that when giving out said compensation, less should be given to those victims who put themselves in vulnerable situations. An entirely sensible point.

In the right wing world, rape is acceptable.

Yes, that would be why right-wingers like me want to have rapists (and all other violent criminals) severely and harshly punished with long no-parole prison sentences.

@56

“(BTW I am a little confused by the wording of the law, since I do not understand what is unlawful about the intercourse apart from the lack of consent, but perhaps that’s not important.) ”

Nothing. That’s probably why it’s confusing. The actus reus (physical or action element of the crime) occurs at penetration. Rape doesn’t have to be violent, it just has to be unconsensual. It’s also a continuing-event offence, where consent can be withdrawn at any time – so consensual sex can become rape if the woman withdraws her consent (and the man ignores this).

“Any of which he will take for consent when it isn’t really – the “reasonableness” test doesn’t seem to me to get us very far here.”

Except this is the point of the wording “is reckless as to whether she consents to it.” Providing a way to find rape in cases where the woman used non-committal language or reluctance as opposed to open refusal (this is a difficult area, because though the law should be to protect women, there has to be a certain degree of protection for men as well, not all so-called rapists actually set out to do that, or even realised they were doing it).

There is also case-law to provide for circumstances where the woman acquiesced to the sex due to fear of reparation or violence.

58. Mike Killingworth

Fine James. Let me ask you a hypothetical. Your girl-friend is drunk and she says “ooh, you can do anything you want with me!” Is that consent? Would it make any difference if she wasn’t your girlf-friend? (FWIW I suspect one woman might intend those words to mean consent, another simply to be a statement of the mess she’s in – hence my differentiating the two cases.)

I don’t think the current law is workable (except in the interests of men, of course). The Crown doesn’t prosecute because it knows that if the case comes down, in Court, to a question of what she did or didn’t say it’s virtually impossible to reach the “beyond reasonable doubt” standard. Juries generally are rightly very reluctant to convict on one person’s unsupported word, irrespective of the alleged crime. We can hardly reduce that standard in rape cases without doing so for murder, GBH, terrorist conspiracy etc – not a road I suppose any of us want to go down.

I think it is reasonable to protect men by retaining the “at the time” condition, which is why I produced the form of words in [56].

@60

That’s the problem though isn’t it? I agree with you. This is why rape is so hard to legislate. It’s terrible to let someone go unpunished for rape, but equally terrible to lock someone up when they’re innocent.

Personally I don’t really see how you could improve this situation. It’s one of those subjects (like counter terrorism / national security laws) that is always going to be difficult and imperfect.

But there are areas that could be improved in the period between the case being reported to police and reaching court, which is where most alleged victims drop out / are dropped out. That is not to say that the victim will not have a dreadful time in court – of course they will – but rather that we don’t do them any favours beforehand.

Between a half and two-thirds of reported cases do not proceed beyond investigation stage. A significant proportion of cases will not proceed beyond referral to prosecutors. Of the cases that reach court, between a third and a half of those involving adults will result in acquittals.

This is why we see claims of a ‘conviction rate’ of only one in twenty, as the conviction rate here is defined as the number of convictions out of cases reported, not the number of convictions out of cases that reach court.

So the bulk of the problem (the lack of rape convictions) appears to occur before the case reaches a jury. And to be fair to juries, they convict more often than not.

The police have again been criticised recently for not taking reports of rapes seriously. There are extraordinary and horrifying allegations coming out of the Worboys case, for example.

The CPS will tend to prosecute only where they have a reasonable chance of success (over 51% chance).

And of course victims may choose not to proceed because the process seems too awful.

But it is sad to say the least that the highest profile proposals by the Government to ostensibly improve the situation tend not to be aimed at where the bulk of the problem appears to lie.

56 and 60. Mike Killingworth. Good points but what about where both parties have had excess alcohol? In addition , I think there neds to be more research on how mixing diffrent types of alcohol impacts on people. There is the old adage of do not mix the grape and the grain. Where both parties have drunk in excess alcohol and mixed their drinks , then both have grossly impaired judgement. There is also the additonal problem of drug taking . If both parties have taken alcohol and cannabis to excess what state is there judgement?

Where one party has remained stone cold sober perhaps deliberately and encourage the other to drink to a state of intoxication in order to reduce their ability to resist , then in effect they have been drugged in order to be taken advantage of. People have very different abilities to handle alcohol. If have known some men to be in good control of their mental faculties after 8-10 pints of beer. Perhaps the prosecution should assess the accused’s mental faculty . Where they are sober , then they have the ability to determine whether the victim has sufficient control of their faculties in order to give consent.

62. Mike Killingworth

[63] Charlie, you’re missing the basic point that we are concerned with her ability to consent, not his.

If a man has an alcohol problem, and his arrest (for whatever offence) leads him to do something about it, that is a mitigating circumstance for sentencing. We are discussing how to secure convictions in the first place.

I agree with all that UKL says in [62] – but unlike him, I’ve suggest a way of achieving the goal we all seek.

Mike @ 64, I thought my suggestions for improvement were implicit in what I wrote. I’ll spell it out: improve training to ensure officers and prosecutors take rape allegations seriously, and punish those who don’t; consider whether it is worth reducing the threshold at which prosecutors decide to proceed with prosecution. But fair point, I tend more to criticise Government proposals to improve ‘conviction rates’ by reducing the burden of proof and getting rid of juries than propose my own solutions.

I’m not sure if your suggestion is appropriate, or indeed workable, while there is (in your words) “a widespread desire to have consensual sex whilst rat-assed”, or indeed a widespread desire to get rat-assed in the first instance.

64. the a&e charge nurse

Trying to weight the effects of alcohol on sexual behaviour and consent is fraught with potential danger ?

For example, if a married couple both get legless, then engage in sex, presumably the husband is still guilty of failing to obtain consent since meaningful consent can never be obtained if the woman is smashed – has he raped his wife ?

Alternatively, if the man is impaired by a particularly potent drink and drugs combi is HE in any fit state to understand what meaningful consent is (especially if the female is intoxicated as well) – in some circumstances couples wake up next morning not even knowing each others name (so I’m told).

65. Mike Killingworth

[64][65] Well, which is more important – protecting the right of drunks to have consensual sex, or preventing rape?

It would be nice to think that this is just a “training” problem as UKL seems to suggest – it would be interesting to have the opinion of women who work in the system as to whether this is so or not. Please post a link if you have one.

“Reducing the threshhold” will only work until someone reduces it too far, and a judge throws out a case, directing acquittal. Then the CPS, who of course have targets, will go bakc to where they are now.

Remember, we are not talking about cases where the woman is beaten up, or even necessarily terrified. These are cases where the woman is often physically aroused and the man has a mistaken unreasonable belief that this indicates consent.

66. Shatterface

I’d like to see how you’d restrict the right of ‘drunks’ (by which I assume you mean anyone who has been drinking) to have sex.

What next, people overstimulated by chocolate or romantic movies?

Shitbags,

Peter Hitchens answered all of his stupid detractors at length on ALL of these points, on his blog, MONTHS ago.

68. Different Duncan

Are you gonna give us a link Burberry, or do we all have to shovel through that shit to find it ourselves?

69. Different Duncan

It is here.

http://hitchensblog.mailonsunday.co.uk/2008/08/the-rape-of-rea.html

It’s a rather long post. The points relevant to here are summarised below.

Hitchens makes a series of strawman attacks on ‘ultra-feminists’ on the grounds of free speech and victim blaming.

He then wiggles away Enuff’s responsibility argument by making a distinction between ‘responsible’ and ‘culpable’. So while the responsiblity for the rape is with the rapist, the culpability lies with the woman for “needlessly putting themselves in a position of danger”.

tim f’s point that, by the same logic, women are culpable the moment they step outside their house blows this nonsense out of the water.

Hitchens correlates sympathy with culpability, not responsibility.

“My point remains. A victim who suffers bad consequences which were made more likely by his or her stupid behaviour deserves less sympathy than a victim who behaved wisely and still suffered bad consequences. Anyone disagree with that?”

*ahem* yes.

Mike @ 67, I said your proposal was unworkable because while I would say fine, if a woman is drunk I can’t see how she can reasonably give consent and therefore that is rape, if both parties are drunk I can’t see why one party is considered capable of making a decision about the other party’s capacity to consent – which is what you said yourself.

I certainly didn’t intend to suggest it “is just a training problem”. What I am claiming is that much of it could be solved by improved training, but not just training. See for example Without Consent, “A report on the joint review of the investigation and prosecution of rape offences”:
“For those victims who do come forward, between a half and two-thirds of cases will not proceed beyond the investigation stage; victims declining to complete the initial process or withdrawing at a later stage account for a significant number of these cases. Home Office research (A gap or a chasm?) highlights a range of factors that play a part in influencing decision making by victims once a report has been made. A number of these relate to practical issues such as the availability of female practitioners (particularly FPs), delays in arranging medical examinations or during the investigation itself, and unpleasant environments. Others relate to the behaviour and approach of professionals, such as insensitive questioning during interview, judgemental or disbelieving attitudes, or failure to maintain contact as the case progresses. Others relate to victims’ fears – for example, fear of the court process and the potential for intrusive, public questioning, or fear of acquittal.”

Also read from page 55 on Specially Trained Officers.

A Gap or a Chasm is shocking stuff too:
“Analysis of the data for this study revealed that around one-quarter of reported cases were ‘no crimed’; in a proportion of detected cases no proceedings were brought . There was inconsistency in the police classification of case outcomes, particularly among those that were ‘no crimed’. The vast majority of cases did not proceed beyond the investigative stage, and the conviction rate for all reported cases was eight per cent.”

“There is an over-estimation of the scale of false allegations by both police officers
and prosecutors which feeds into a culture of scepticism, leading to poor
communication and loss of confidence between complainants and the police.”

“Data from service user questionnaires and interviews showed that there are specific elements that would improve responses to reported rape. These include: the availability of female practitioners; a culture of belief, support and respect; access to clear information at appropriate points in the process; being kept informed about case progress; and courtroom advocacy that does justice to the complainant’s account.”

“F rom the perspective of complainants, the diff e rence in perceptions between
themselves and CJS personnel was too often not just a gap but a chasm. If,
however, each point in the attrition process is examined in detail, what emerges
is a series of smaller gaps, each of which could be bridged by targ e t e d
interventions.”

I could go on – there is tons of stuff there.

But really I’m concerned that there seems to be the view that the problem is in the courtroom when all the evidence says the bulk of the problem occurs beforehand. Juries do convict rapists and many rapists plead guilty. (I am not saying you have that view, by the way.)

There is also some interesting info in a 2006 consultation.

71. Mike Killingworth

[74] I agree that much can be done to improve police practice, and that this should be done first – in particular, there should be a clear rule (whether administrative or legislative) that if a woman who alleges rape so requests, she should be seen by women police officers and doctors. In fact I think that the “genuine occupational qualification” of the SDA probably covers it already.

However, even the best police practice cannot deal with the “fear of acquittal”.

And yes, I think it would be interesting to put a case before a jury in which the prosecution case was that the man was blind drunk and therefore necessarily reckless as to whether or not she consented. (Since the case would then turn on his behaviour, not hers, she wouldn’t necessarily have to appear in court.) That is not to say that such a man should serve a long prison term (nor do I think that in that case any judge would impose one) but I do think that a conviction in those circumstances would have a powerful deterrent effect. After all, a lot of men come home blind drunk and insist on their “marital rights” which I doubt their wives appreciate, to put it mildly.

Mike @75, fair points all. I would certainly be interested to see the outcome of the ‘recklessness’ law. And I’m no prude but I sometimes think men who go after woman who are all but falling over in their own vomit might benefit from a spell inside.

Here is another disturbing article from Tuesday’s Guardian:

One of Scotland Yard’s elite sexual assault units has been condemned for serious failures after untrained officers were left investigating rapes, despite repeated pleas to management for more detectives.

An internal inquiry describes how cases were mishandled in a department that was “understaffed, underskilled and overburdened”. It also documents claims by members of Southwark’s Sapphire team that management treated car crime as a higher priority than sex offences, because it was under pressure to meet targets for solving cases. …

An untrained PC who should not even have been investigating rapes struggled to deal with up to 33 sex offences at a time under a “punishing workload which would have tested even an experienced investigator”, as the unit manager’s pleas to her superiors for more detectives went unanswered, the inquiry reveals. Under the Met’s rules, a trained detective constable is the lowest rank who should handle rape cases, but by December 2004 the unit had only two, and in May 2005 it had none [it now has seven].

74. the a&e charge nurse

Re: consent, this seems to be the current state of play:

“Judges were told in late 2007 that a woman may not be capable of giving consent if she is drunk, even if she is still conscious.

Earlier that year, three Appeal Court judges quashed the conviction of 25-year-old software engineer Benjamin Bree who was jailed for five years the previous December after a drunken evening with a 19-year-old student.

The girl told the jury that she did not want to have sex, but Mr Bree told the court she had given her consent. One of the judges said sex amounts to rape if the woman is incapable of giving consent.

But he added: ‘Where the complainant has voluntarily consumed even substantial quantities of alcohol, but nevertheless remains capable of choosing whether or not to have intercourse, and in drink agrees to do so, this would not be rape.’

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1164402/Accused-rape-night-stand-victim-drunk-remember.html


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