The Daily Mail and its constant ‘cry rape’ stories


6:58 pm - June 25th 2010

by Hannah    


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Alison Clarke is making a plea to the Daily Mail to stop featuring stories about false rape claims.

So, this is a plea to the Mail. Yes, we know that women make up stories about sexual assault. But – and please note this – they are very few and far between.

The fact is that at least 50,000 women are raped every year in the UK, but only a tiny percentage result in convictions of the rapist.

She’s not the only one. A while back I wrote about the way that papers like the Mail report rape cases – nearly every time it will be case where ‘an innocent man’s life has been ruined’ or ‘a woman made sickening claims in a revenge attack on her ex’ or some such tale.

I’m not saying these cases aren’t true. I’m not saying that false accusations aren’t made. But that fact is they are FAR outweighed by actual rapes and assaults. Of course you wouldn’t know this, because the Mail only reports rape cases when the attack has happened to a beautiful, young, virginal, middle class white woman.

Ever since I wrote that post I’ve been noticing that ‘cry rape’ stories have been appearing with a terrifying frequency on the Mail’s website. Every day it seems like someone is tweeting about another one and despairing at the way that a national newspaper (although I’m not sure its content warrants the ‘news’ part any more) is creating a picture of a society where 99% of rape accusations are made by evil and vicious liars.

And the more the tabloids report rape cases in this way, the more society will believe it applies to the majority of incidents.

I’m not going to lie, it’s getting depressing. It’s getting beyond a joke. It’s no longer just the odd story; it’s absolutely relentless (presumably these stories are becoming more frequent as the furore surrounding possible anonymity for rape defendants intensifies).

The question is, what can be done? I’ve been taking part in a couple of discussions about possible action but find myself wondering what I, personally, could do as I’m not affiliated to any particular group of organisation.

There are so many of us who feel the same but it’s hard to know where to go next. Any ideas would be welcomed at this point. It’s difficult to imagine the paper ever changing its outlook but the way it’s going about things is sending out an unpleasant message and we all know the power it has. Whether we like it or not, people believe what they read.

You can also tweet me opinions and ideas @boudledidge.

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About the author
This is a guest post. Hannah's interests include feminism, music, Christianity, left wing politics, writing, the great outdoors and more. She blogs at We Mixed Our Drinks
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Feminism ,Media ,Sex equality

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Reader comments


Polite protest to the PPC? Old-school demo outside the Mail’s offices? New-style awareness campaign via twitter (#rapetruth or something?)? Send hate mail to Paul Dacre? Write and copy and distribute a factsheet to slyly insert into every copy of the Mail a la the Tabloid Lies anti-Page 3 thing?

Just off the top of my head…

errr I mean the PCC obviously.

The Mail hates woman, and has an editor who really hates woman, unless they are married , and tied to the kitchen sink.

So no surprise that they run these stories. It is the usual establishment Conservative position, woman are evil and it is always their fault.

Maybe we can tack on a polite request to be nicer about asylum seekers, the poor, benefit claimants, the disabled, the young, the old, doctors, scientists, muslims, hindus, gays, murderers, thieves, idiots, subs, doms, fetishists, transsexuals, crossdressers, prostitutes, Top Gear presenters, environmentalists, liberals, unionists and bacon, while we’re at it?

Unfortunately, for the Mail to listen to pleas to be nicer about any one of those groups, it’d have to be a vaguely worthy newspaper. Still, it can’t hurt.

Everyone knows the Daily Fail is a pile of wank. Everyone with an ounce of sense, anyway.

My own mission is to reduce the readership of the Daily Fail however I can – but the ‘honourable’ thing to do is to tell the truth; present the arguments as they are and get around the lies and propaganda peddled by such filth merchants.

I think I’m on about ten, which isn’t great. (But why would I want to associate with Mail readers?)

at least 50,000 women are raped every year in the UK, but only a tiny percentage result in convictions of the rapist.

At least 50,000 women claim to be raped every year.

ukliberty: would you like to explain
a) what possible motivation anyone would have to claim that they had experienced more crime than they had to the British Crime Survey (which is where the 50,000+ estimate comes from)
b) if so, why this is likely to outweigh people who through forgetting, not wanting to say even on an anonymous self-completed survey, and so on claim to have experienced less crime than they actually did.
c) if so, why this doesn’t completely invalidate the BCS – data from which you’ve been happy to use in the past – as a statistical tool.

Actually, 50,000 is likely to be somewhat underestimated, since the BCS only covers people aged between 16 and 59, and the questions the BCS uses to collect data about sexual offences exclude some actions which meet the legal and colloquial definitions of those offences.

“Yes, we know that women make up stories about sexual assault. But – and please note this – they are very few and far between.”

Umm, this is something that needs to be proven, not merely stated. And it’s something which is actually quite difficult to prove.

We have estimates of the number of rape accusations which are indeed false. 3% or so according to the Fawcett Society, 10% or so according to the Stern Review (both those numbers are remembered but they’ve been used here in LC before now).

We also know the number of rape accusations that actually end up in a conviction: 6%. We’re told that number often enough (and yes, there is the oddity that this is the only crime where anyone measures from accusation to conviction rather than charge to conviction).

So, what we have is that the number of false accusations is around and about the same (from half of to 1.6 times) the number of accusations of rape that we can actually prove to legal standards (“beyond a reasonable doubt”).

Now this can be all sorts of things: a dreadful indictment of how rape accusationsare not taken seriously by the justice system: a shameful indictment of our patriarchal society: a reflection of how damn difficult it is to actually prove rape, it being just about the only crime where the issue of consent is the definition of whether there was a crime at all.

But the straight fact that the number of false accusations is around and about the same as the number of convictions does not lead one to the conclusion that “Yes, we know that women make up stories about sexual assault. But – and please note this – they are very few and far between.”

cim, I’m not saying they’re lying.

10. Matt Munro

“I’m not saying these cases aren’t true. I’m not saying that false accusations aren’t made. But that fact is they are FAR outweighed by actual rapes and assaults”

Of course they are, that is true of all crimes – but that doesn’t mean false accusations don’t happen. The problem could easily be solved by granting anonymity to the accused, but, for reasons which make no sense to me, various womens groups protested against this, and it looks likely to be watered down, so we will be stuck with something close to the status quo.

11. Matt Munro

@ 8 “We also know the number of rape accusations that actually end up in a conviction: 6%. We’re told that number often enough (and yes, there is the oddity that this is the only crime where anyone measures from accusation to conviction rather than charge to conviction)”.

From charge to conviction the rate is about 58%, roughly the same as murder. The 6% figure was invented ny Harriet Harperson and is meaningless.

12. Rhys Williams

You seem very upset about this matt and Uk liberty.
No skeletons in the cupboard eh

ukliberty: then what are you saying?

Tim Worstall: “it being just about the only crime where the issue of consent is the definition of whether there was a crime at all.”

Theft and related crimes require that the property was taken without consent. Computer misuse law is all about whether you had permission to carry out a particular action. Trespass likewise. Boxers and martial artists carry out actions in the sporting arena that would be an offence outside it. Injecting someone with strong drugs is generally an offence, but not if they consent to it as part of medical treatment or research.

Numerous crimes are “otherwise legal action without the target’s consent”. The difference is that the justice system accepts as reasonable arguments for the existence of consent in rape cases things that would be laughed out of court in a theft case or a trespass case.

On the rarity of false accusations. If you look at Kelly, Lovett and Regan’s paper (2005, HORS293), they took a sample of over 2,500 reported rapes in the UK (which is a significant proportion of the annual total). Of that sample, 216 had been classified by the police as false accusations, but of that 216 there were only 39 named suspects. (This corresponds well with previous research showing that most false accusations do not name a suspect)

They also found that of the 216, a significant proportion had been classified incorrectly as false (for various reasons), which means that in terms of the actually false allegations, there may well have been even fewer than 39 named suspects (only 6 of whom were arrested, and only 2 charged). The “worst case” is 39/2640, or 1.5%. (and note that this is assuming the high 8-10% total false report rate)

Scaling that up to the annual figures, we get at most 200ish named suspects in false allegations (of whom only 30 will be arrested and only 10 charged) compared with 50,000+ rapes (mostly unreported). Even men, who are both more likely to be falsely accused and less likely to be raped, are thirty times more likely to be raped than to be falsely accused of raping someone else.

Stern was noting 10% as an upper bound – you can see elsewhere in the paper that she’s sceptical about that really being the case.

and yes, there is the oddity that this is the only crime where anyone measures from accusation to conviction rather than charge to conviction

I have to admit I’m not sure why that measurement isn’t used for other crimes, at least for the many other crimes where the identity of the perpetrator is generally known. Charge to conviction rate – for any crime – tells you more about the ability of the CPS to assess their own ability to successfully prosecute than anything about the general ability of the justice system to prosecute criminals. You could get a near-100% charge to conviction rate, for any crime, by only charging those people who you are sure will plead guilty anyway, but if you did this the report to conviction rate would plummet, and so would public safety.

Matt Munro: “The problem could easily be solved by granting anonymity to the accused”

Would you like to give an estimate, just roughly, of the number of people who annually are:
1) falsely accused of rape; and
2) not convicted, since no-one is arguing for post conviction anonymity; and
3) would benefit significantly from the media being unable to report their name (which is all “anonymity” does)

When I did this – using generous assumptions about the false reporting rate and about the likelihood of pre-verdict media coverage of a rape case and about the proportion of harm caused to a falsely accused suspect that is caused by the media reporting of the case and not other factors – I got an answer of “about 1 a year”.

15. Chaise Guevara

“The problem could easily be solved by granting anonymity to the accused, but, for reasons which make no sense to me, various womens groups protested against this.”

While I tend to agree with you about the need to grant anonymity for rape suspects (and people accused of any other crime so serious that the accusation can ruin your life), I have to admit that there are good counter-arguments. Sure, there’ll be some of the usual point-missing nonsense about “protecting the criminal”, but there’s also the issue that naming a suspected rapist can lead to other victims coming forward who were previously silent because they thought nobody would believe them.

This tread just backs up what I said about Conservative men hating woman. It is quite revealing how the tory trolls come on here day after day to bang on about law and order and yet……

As far as rape is concerned they are much more concerned with the rights of the male rapist than of the woman. Why is this?

The answer is that despite their denials it is in breed into Conservative men that woman are nothing but subservient to men. We should not be surprised at this as all the main religions of the world have woman as second class citizens, and Christianity blames woman for all of the sins of the world. Ever since Eve bit the apple it is always woman’s fault. Also men of the Conservative nature are never responsible for their actions. That is not to say they don’t like to lecture everyone else about personal responsibility, but when Conservatives do it there is always something else to blame. They never take responsibility. They find God, or some other excuse. “The woman was asking for it” is a classic line. A s it even blames the woman for the man not being able to control himself. That is why in Islam woman are made to cover every inch of their body because men can’t control themselves.

@8 Tim Worstall: We have estimates of the number of rape accusations which are indeed false. 3% or so according to the Fawcett Society, 10% or so according to the Stern Review

It’s clear that both these figures can’t be true.

@13 cim: On the rarity of false accusations. If you look at Kelly, Lovett and Regan’s paper (2005, HORS293), they took a sample of over 2,500 reported rapes in the UK (which is a significant proportion of the annual total). Of that sample, 216 had been classified by the police as false accusations

And how many actual false accusations hadn’t been classified as such by the police? I suspect the answer is I don’t know, you don’t know, and Kelly, Lovett and Regan don’t know either.

Making false accusations of crimes is illegal, and widely disapproved of. So people are hardly likely to admit doing it. This being the case, I doubt if anyone has *accurate* figures for the number of false accusations for rape or any other crime.

That doesn’t stop inaccurate figures, or plain guesses being bandied about. (Did you know, 73.6% of statistics on the internet are made up?) And since the whole area is heavily politicised, people will tend to believe whatever figures they want to.

I suggest we all admit we just don’t know.

18. Matt Munro

@ 12 “You seem very upset about this matt and Uk liberty.
No skeletons in the cupboard eh”

Not personally no. But like all males I am at (theoretical) risk of a false accusation.

19. Matt Munro

@ 14 “When I did this – using generous assumptions about the false reporting rate and about the likelihood of pre-verdict media coverage of a rape case and about the proportion of harm caused to a falsely accused suspect that is caused by the media reporting of the case and not other factors – I got an answer of “about 1 a year”.”

I’m sure a similar calculation would reveal that the number of innocent people who get executed is tiny, but is that an argument for bringing back capital punishment ?

20. Matt Munro

@ 16 “As far as rape is concerned they are much more concerned with the rights of the male rapist than of the woman. Why is this?”

Sally, we are talking about people accused of rape. Unless you want to change the whole basis of English criminal law (which, given another 4 years, I think Harperson would have managed), being accused does not make you a rapist.
I am actually in favour of more severe punishement for rapists than most on the left would countenance (although, oddly, the lefts instinctive sympathy for criminals dissapears for crimes against women).

Phil/17: We know from BCS data that around that there are around 72,000 people raped a year, and from other sources that the repeat victimisation rate (where someone is raped more than once in a year by the same or a different person) is around 3. That gives around 210,000 rapes a year (of people over 16), of which only 8,000 (of people over 16) are reported (on the assumption of an insignificant number of false accusations). If you assume a large number of false accusations, then the proportion of the rapes that did happen that are actually reported is even smaller.

It does not seem to make much sense to me that the ratio “false reports:all reports” is higher than the ratio “all reports:all rapes”, so while there may be false reports that the police do not spot, it seems very likely that they’re rare (especially given the well-documented propensity for many police officers to disbelieve rape victims)

Matt/19: I’m not saying that this one person a year wouldn’t benefit, but if that benefit came at the cost of allowing a single serial rapist (different person) to stay free and rape several other people, then the change would have increased the total number of victims.

22. Rhys Williams

Not personally no. But like all males I am at (theoretical) risk of a false accusation.

Like every one who goes into a shop is a potential shoplifter.
I don’t feel like a potential rapist when talking to female colleagues
have you got something to hide

Personally, seeing as the Mail is about as a worthy as sewage in newspaper terms and will always seek to promote a hatred of anything and everything different agenda, I’d be inclined to go with either a Twitter campaign as S Pill suggested or perhaps opening this up into a wider reaching campaign for more honesty and less bullshit in the media in general. You could even design and circulate a faux newspaper front page with a headline like:

“Nation in shock as rape victim proved to be telling the truth!”

Or similar, to really hammer home the point about how inaccurate a picture of rape victims the Mail presents to the wider world. This same tactic could also be used to shed light on the Mail’s misrepresentation of many other issues such as science, the Muslim communities attitude towards terrorism, gay adoption to name only a few.

How does “I support pre-trial anonymity for those accused of rape” beget “Have you got something to hide?” Do I have to trot off and rape someone before I can support this legislation?

Affairs, sad states thereof, etc.

Using a complex statistical model, the Gaussian GUESS, I calculate that the potential benefit of this legislation would be small, and the potential harm also small. Further, I calculate that the potential harm could easily be avoided if every rape victim reported their rape to the police at the time of the rape.

I know that latter is extremely difficult for some women to do – and they might not be believed – and those two facts are also a sorry state of affairs. Fortunately, they can be tackled independently of this proposed legislation, and shouldn’t be affected by it as long as we all stop pretending that, as legislation, it’s telling women that we collectively don’t believe them.

Amirite?

25. Flowerpower

Nick, you are right.

And the “charge to conviction” rate being 58%, or to put it another way, the fact that 42% of those charged are not convicted, shows that the problem, if there is one, is not timidity or reluctance on the part of the CPS to bring charges.

Hannah, thanks for the article, I searched on the Mails site for “rape” and was shocked to see every story was about a false allegation for rape or giving the accused anonymity.

What can you do about it? Not much really except get in line behind all the Immigrants, Gays and people on benefits,

@22 – you may not feel like one, but you are. Your also quite insulting insuating that people are rapists.

Hi hannah
Great article.
I haven’t read all the comments so apologies if I go off course or repeat something that has already been said.

I just thought in terms of ways of tackling the ‘false allegation’ claims, I think we could do well to do a lot more joined up thinking and campaigning with other forms of violence in society and how they are represented by the media.

Rape survivors are made so much more vulnerable I believe by being placed in a ‘special’ victim category, both by the press and by their feminist supporters and allies. I think if we discussed rape and rape reporting/legal cases much more in the context of say, domestic violence cases, or even homophobic attacks and other forms of violence, it would not give the media such license to isolate rape survivors and their accounts of what happens to them.

The stats are not the issue for me: the issue is singling out women victims of sexual violence as either more likely to be liars, or more deserving of a separate victim status than other victims of violent crime.

“Sally, we are talking about people accused of rape.”

So should this new law of yours apply to murderers too.?

Why are you so concerned with rapists? But not murderers? The answer is that Conservative men don’t think rape is a crime at all. So you want special laws to protect men but not for people accuse dof murder.

And you people pretend that you are for law and order. what a joke.

@28 – Anonymity shouldn’t be given to murderers but too suspected rapist yes.

Hi everyone, thanks for the discussion and suggestions. I totally agree with those of you who are saying that this isn’t the only thing the Mail holds a completely unpleasant view on. Following this post I wrote a follow-up analysing the paper’s attitude to rape cases and proving that it’s really only interested in reporting ‘cry rape’ stories, especially since the anonymity issue came into question. In an effort to prove that actually, the Mail doesn’t care about your average rape case (therefore meaning that granting anonymity to the accused as far as the paper is concerned is pointless), another blogger has written a post showing that nearly all the ‘cry rape’ cases were not previously reported on.

I currently plan to take this further so if any of you would like to disvuss things further or be kept in the loop don’t hesitate to contact me via my blog or Twitter.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Dave Harris

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  2. sunny hundal

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  3. Elly M

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  4. voz latina

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  7. Greg Eden

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  8. Lola

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  9. Shantelle

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  10. Adam Fish

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  11. Pod Wangler

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  13. Hannah M

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  15. V

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  16. Alexander Kelly

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  17. Elly

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  18. Not an Odalisque

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  19. Matt Lodder

    The Daily Mail and its constant ‘cry rape’ stories: Alison Clarke is making a plea to the Daily Mail to stop featu… http://bit.ly/cFcRyF

  20. Bunny Warren

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  21. links for 2010-06-28 « Embololalia

    […] The Daily Mail and its constant ‘cry rape’ stories | Liberal Conspiracy Ever since I wrote that post I’ve been noticing that ‘cry rape’ stories have been appearing with a terrifying frequency on the Mail’s website. Every day it seems like someone is tweeting about another one and despairing at the way that a national newspaper (although I’m not sure its content warrants the ‘news’ part any more) is creating a picture of a society where 99% of rape accusations are made by evil and vicious liars. (tags: false.accusations daily.mail sexual.violence) […]





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