She is free now, but the justice system still fails raped women


3:12 pm - November 24th 2010

by Siobhan Schwartzberg    


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The woman sentenced to 8 months in jail after retracting her claim that her husband raped was released yesterday.

Lord Chief Justice criticised decisions to prosecute the woman but went on to call this an “extreme case”.

This is not an extreme case, however awful it may be. Women are consistently being portrayed as the guilty party in rape cases.

I spoke to a woman whose case lasted for 18 months. She had forensic evidence and a witness. The person that raped her was someone she knew. Her sexual history was discussed in court; the man was found not guilty.

Women are more likely to see their rapist walk free than see justice served. Currently only 6% of investigations of rape lead to a conviction.

This case is a symptom of the institutionalised corruption and prejudice that shapes how society deals with rape.

Attitudes towards rape have become increasingly distorted. Showing social and emotional intelligence towards another person’s wishes is not considered important; in a rape trial you’re more likely to hear about what the woman was wearing.

One in ten women are expected to be raped in their lifetime. These figures do not account for the women that don’t speak about the ordeal I suspect this number would be far greater if it did.

We need to change attitudes towards rape and we need to radically overhaul the rape prosecution system.

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Siobhan is an occasional contributor to LC and a journalist and filmmaker living in London. She blogs here and Tweets from here.
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Reader comments


“Currently only 6% of investigations of rape lead to a conviction.”

Which is a bit more than violence against the person and bit less than robbery:
http://www.straightstatistics.org/article/how-panic-over-rape-was-orchestrated

The criminal justice system’s ability to process rape cases is about the same as for other violent crimes. Hardly great, but that is the nature of these kinds of crime and the kind of evidence required to prove them.

I spoke to a woman whose case lasted for 18 months. She had forensic evidence and a witness. The person that raped her was someone she knew. Her sexual history was discussed in court; the man was found not guilty.

I get the very worrying suggestion from that sentence that you feel the fact that a prosecution took place, and did not convict a person the Jury felt to be innocent means the system failed.

As it is the Jury who make the final decision, are you saying that Juries should be scrapped, or that the prosecution lied, or that the defence was incompetent?

Just because a man is accused of rape does not automatically mean they are guilty, and if a full court case is held and the man is found to be innocent, then HE IS INNOCENT.

Indeed, you are treading on dodgy legal grounds by claiming otherwise in print.

Anyway, it is often claimed that the level of successful prosecutions is too low – but I certainly hope we don’t end up with some sort of target system where people are prosecuted simply to meet the annual quota.

If there is evidence of prosecutors deliberately seeking to avoid prosecuting people where there is overwhelming evidence, then that is one thing, but lets not ever get into the quagmire of claiming that the level of prosecutions are not hitting some arbitrary target.

That is a very dangerous place to end up.

Rape by its very nature is very hard to prove, you need to prove something in order to deliver a guilty verdict. That sums it up, there isn’t a conspiracy against you gals no matter how much you wish there was.

Glad to hear she was released though, the whole thing seemed very harsh and uncaring

Yes, of course, it is completely impossible to express any concerns about the way in which rape is treated by the criminal justice system without being in favour of scrapping juries and the presumption of innocence, and just locking up all TEH POOR MENZ!!!1one!!eleventy!!! purely on the victim’s say-so. The specific concerns expressed here about the appropriateness of cross-examining the victim w.r.t her sexual history or what she was wearing at the time are just stalking horses for the feminazi project of global castration.

This is going to be another really depressing thread, isn’t it?

OP, regarding the woman sentenced to eight months, that wasn’t about the rape in itself, that was about her changing her evidence to the authorities, which of course they will take a dim view of (not that I think it was in the public interest to prosecute her).

I spoke to a woman whose case lasted for 18 months. She had forensic evidence and a witness. The person that raped her was someone she knew. Her sexual history was discussed in court; the man was found not guilty.

Without a reference, it’s difficult to reach an opinion about this, other than – as IanVisits @2 pointed out – a jury presumably heard the evidence, and decided to acquit, so in the absence of any cites we have to trust in the jury if anything at all (the prosecution did not prove its case beyond reasonable doubt).

…we need to radically overhaul the rape prosecution system.

In what way?

I think the post could be improved by including the work that is being done.

“This is not an extreme case, however awful it may be. Women are consistently being portrayed as the guilty party in rape cases.

I spoke to a woman whose case lasted for 18 months. She had forensic evidence and a witness. The person that raped her was someone she knew. Her sexual history was discussed in court; the man was found not guilty.”

So after he was found not guilty did the jury find her guilty of raping herself, as you suggest this is what happens consistnetly?

8. Chaise Guevara

@ 1 Nick

Beat me to it! I’m also suspicious of the one in ten figure, but too busy to look it up.

@ OP

While your accusations of institutionalised corruption are based on misrepresented data, your point about how society thinks about rape is valid. I think we need to take another look at prosection and sentencing policy in this sort of case, and defence lawyers should have to demonstrate that a woman’s clothing or sex life is relevant before dragging the details through the countrts.

Incidentally your last link is broken, it goes to a news story of a policeman being convicted of three counts of rape.

10. Luis Enrique

what is the fundamental problem here?

here’s one way of looking at it: we have a justice system based on proof beyond reasonable doubt, and a crime that by its nature rarely provides the evidence required for such proof.

it’s possible to explain part of the low ratio of allegations investigated to convictions secured by saying the police don’t care about rape or are incompetent (it would also be possible to explain the ratio by saying lots of allegations are false). I don’t know about that – it doesn’t strike me as very plausible, I suspect the police as a rule take rape very seriously, but I’ve no experience of how the police deal with rape claims so don’t know what I base that on. But let’s consider the ‘fundamental problem’ explanation.

One obvious option is to weaken the standard of proof required in cases of alleged rape. If there are lots of women getting raped and lots of rapists getting away with it, I think there’s a case for considering that.

Siobhan you clearly blame “attitudes towards rape” for this state of affairs. Setting aside that possibility, and thinking just about the problems that even well intentioned police, judges etc. without attitude problems face securing rape convictions without strong evidence… would you consider changing the standards of required proof? Any suggestions as to how?

11. Luis Enrique

sorry Siobhan, I meant to write “you clearly blame attitudes ….as well as the rape prosecution system” and then ask you about this latter.

How often do you hear victims of muggings being asked about how they were dressed at the time? If you go around dressed in such a way as to suggest that you might have something worth stealing, are you “asking for it”? And if you are, should that reduce the chances of securing a conviction?

13. scandalousbill

“I spoke to a woman whose case lasted for 18 months. She had forensic evidence and a witness. The person that raped her was someone she knew. Her sexual history was discussed in court; the man was found not guilty.

Women are more likely to see their rapist walk free…”

The real tragedy is that the woman’s sexual history has really no bearing on the case of the alleged rape. Rape is an act of dominance and violence, not sexual. It is not love making that got carried away or the result of sexual teasing.

Until the law fully recognizes this factor, the victim will always be considered as a participant in the act, their character and past subject to examination and the conviction rate will remain at marginal levels.

@12, your certainly not asking for it, though you are increasing the risk to yourself. And no, this shouldn’r reduce the chance of securing a conviction.

You keep going back to this point about how woman are dressed, but until a working link is supplied its of little relevance as no one else knows what the OP is talking about.

Luis,

Siobhan you clearly blame “attitudes towards rape” for this state of affairs. …

Well, to be fair there are some bizarre attitudes (IMO), so if the jury is fairly representative of the population, they will have the similar attitudes. It doesn’t help if alcohol is involved (NOTE: I am not blaming the victim here, I am talking about perceptions).

That said, lots of things happen before the case gets to court that don’t help: women aren’t taken seriously, police officers record no crime isntead of rape, and so on.

Important to note, too, that the number of convictions is increasing – the proportion of convictions / allegations is decreasing because the number of allegations is increasing (there would be even more allegations if they were properly recorded).

16. siobhan schwartzberg

In the worboys case he had committed almost a 100 acts of violence towards women before he was finally convicted. The Sapphire unit had been set up to deal with the rise in reported rapes, but in the last few months there have been a couple of cases of police corruption. In one case leading to the deaths of the victims.

This is clearly a problem either there were many officers complicit in the corruption or that one policeman was ably to abuse the system because he had too much personal power. Either way it has to be addressed.

The woman I referred to offered a witness, she was then told she couldn’t use him. This was purposeful, so that it became her side against his, once they had spoken about her sexual history (not his) he received a not guilty. So yes! I don’t think this is justice. I didn’t say change the whole legal system, thats hysterical. I do think how rapes are tried in court should be looked at. A woman’s sexual history shouldn’t be talked about in court, this is irrelevant, as is the relationship between the man and woman.

17. Luis Enrique

ukliberty

good points. I was mostly avoiding the ‘attitudes’ explanation because i don’t know much about it and because it strikes me as easy to write “we must change attitudes” but harder to know what will do that. Rape awareness training for judges? I don’t know anything about how judges are trained.

Are you saying that you don’t believe that matters such as dress and sexual history are routinely used by defence lawyers to discredit rape victims? Really?

Anyway, the correct link is here. Took me all of 30 seconds to find it.

My comment #18 is in reply to #14.

Which is a bit more than violence against the person and bit less than robbery:

Because rape is really like robbery isn’t it? Insensitive twat

21. siobhan schwartzberg

Thanks Dunc, Hadn’t realised the link didn’t work.
Sorry about that.

@10:

I suspect the police as a rule take rape very seriously

Then how come specialist sexual crime units do so much better than the regular force? See, for example, this.

@13 “Rape is an act of dominance and violence, not sexual”

I thought this idea had died a very necessary death. Of course rape is an act of dominance and violence but to deny that it is also sexual is likely to lead to less useful ways of dealing with the problem.

@ 16 “A woman’s sexual history shouldn’t be talked about in court, this is irrelevant, as is the relationship between the man and woman.”

Its not always going to be irrelevant. Granted, you could have a presumtion that it should not be something for the jury to consider but many scenarios, let alone alleged scenarios, will bring both back in. I’ve no idea how to get around that without producing large numbers of unsafe convictions.

Ideas on a postcard as always.

@ 22 Taking something seriously merely means that they will try their best. That’s not much use if they don’t know the best approach, which presumeably the specialists do.

It IS depressingly familiar that any article on here about the justice system failing rape victims (of which there is plenty of evidence) is accompanied by overly-defensive men screaming whataboutery and claiming that this is all being hyped up. And comparing to conviction rates of robbery – honestly… are you losing your damn mind Nick?

@23: How could someone’s sexual history or the status of the relationship between victim and alleged perpetrator be relevant? Please be specific.

27. Arthur Thistlewood

This woman has only been released from prison. She is still being punished. She is still considered to be a criminal. She – and every other woman – is still being failed.

Why? Well, as #1 points out, the attrition rates for rape aren’t much different from some other crimes. However, the complaint about such numbers isn’t necessarily about the outcome of how many people are found guilty, but rather the process that creates such an outcome. It’s easy to show how many reports and investigations of rapes are dropped at a particular stage, but it’s harder to understand why they are dropped.

The criticisms of the police after the Warboys case are instructive, especially the quote from a victim who did report the rape:

“If I could avoid it I would avoid using or calling upon the police again. What has happened to me with the case over Worboys has left me with no faith in them at all.”

But especially relevant to the people who like to dispute the number rape “allegations”, is the fact that after the police made an appeal, over 102 women contacted the police saying that he had possibly committed sexual offences against them, 19 of whom came forward only after his conviction.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/8469138.stm
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8468058.stm
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-11625744

Do you want more proof that the justice system already has low respect among women concerning rape and sexual offences? If so, try getting a group of women to talk about this honestly, and listen to their experiences of the police and authorities. Also, bear in mind that less than two decades ago, a court could still find that a man had the right to legally rape a woman if they were married. The generation of young adult women in the UK now is the first in history which can expect full legal protection from rape based upon their consent alone. The justice system needs to step back and realize that it wasn’t long ago they were the enemy of women’s rights, and criminalizing this woman won’t help make amends for that.

@18. I was saying I wasn’t sure, I’ve never witnessed a rape trial. Perhaps you should have taken longer than 5 seconds because this link doesn’t mention what defence lawyers do or dont say in court at all.

29. Luis Enrique

I don’t know Dunc. “the unit has achieved an increase in detection rates in rape cases from 27.3 per cent to 31.2 per cent”. That doesn’t strike me as very different from how much better I’d expect a specialist unit to perform over any generalist unit for any sort of crime. But I’m not here to argue that everything is fine with how the police handle rape. (although I do have something of an instinct to stick up for the police, because I think most of them are probably decent people trying to do their jobs as best they can).

having looked at some of the links above, I’m changing my mind about the “it’s not obvious how to change attitudes” argument. seems to me that an advertising campaign concentrating on the messages: “if she says no it’s rape, whether she’s wearings hot pants or a nun’s habit, and it’s also rape if she’s too drunk to know what’s going on” is called for.

Luis,

it’s possible to explain part of the low ratio of allegations investigated to convictions secured by saying the police don’t care about rape or are incompetent (it would also be possible to explain the ratio by saying lots of allegations are false). I don’t know about that – it doesn’t strike me as very plausible, I suspect the police as a rule take rape very seriously, but I’ve no experience of how the police deal with rape claims so don’t know what I base that on

Well, they’re getting better, but there is certainly room for improvement. I don’t think it’s controversial (in the sense of arguable) to say that the police have been incompetent on this (I don’t know how many) – that is why we have special training, special units, and so on.

Have a look at pages eight and nine of this, for example: Without consent

@24

Taking something seriously merely means that they will try their best. That’s not much use if they don’t know the best approach, which presumeably the specialists do.

When I genuinely take something seriously, I actually make a significant effort to learn the best approach. I don’t turn up at my work in the morning and say “Well, I don’t know how to do x, so I’ll just muddle through and say I did my best.” And I don’t deal with anything nearly as important.

sorry, 9 and 10, not 8 and 9.

@29:

I do have something of an instinct to stick up for the police, because I think most of them are probably decent people trying to do their jobs as best they can

I’m sure they are as individuals (on the whole), but are you going to completely declaim the very existence of institutional factors?

Perhaps you should have taken longer than 5 seconds because this link doesn’t mention what defence lawyers do or dont say in court at all.

Hey, I just provided the intended link, which you complained was broken. It’s not my fault it’s not relevant to the link text provided in the OP, as I didn’t write it.

34. Luis Enrique

I’m quite prepared to accept the police are generally less competent than we’d like them to be and particularly less competent when it comes to rape. But what I was trying to get at is that I doubt this is the only or even main explanation for low conviction rates and (probably) lots of rapists going unpunished, which is why I was asking instead about the problem of proving a crime like rape beyond reasonable doubt and whether that standard needs to change. This is a question to which the answer might be yes or no. I know a little bit about economics, zero about this.

Luis Enrique/8: “I suspect the police as a rule take rape very seriously, but I’ve no experience of how the police deal with rape claims so don’t know what I base that on”

They deal with them very badly, as a rule. Not all of them, by any means, but on average, yes. There are countless easy to find stories of people’s bad dealings with the police and the CPS regarding rapes they reported. (Or, more systematically, the research on attrition conducted in 2005 for the Home Office, and similar studies)

The Fawcett Society did an FOI request fairly recently to get the report-conviction rates for the various UK police regions. On 2007 figures, Dorset had only 1 in 60 reports end in conviction, while in the Cleveland region, 18% of reports resulted in a conviction. 1 in 60 is not what I’d call “taking seriously”. The huge variation between regions is evidence enough of massive failings – and crucially, for all those “Oh, it’s too hard to prosecute, what do you expect?” people, evidence of fixable failings – somewhere in the process.

But then, if you look at the research on people’s attitudes to rape, like the recent survey by the Havens, or the undetected perpetrator surveys of researchers like David Lisak, it’s hardly surprising. A sufficiently large and scary number of people (more men than women) have attitudes that boil down to “I don’t rape people, I just make them have sex with me when they don’t want to”. There are enough of them that there’s probably one or two on every jury, and several involved in the investigation and prosecution of every rape case at some stage.

36. Luis Enrique

are you going to completely declaim the very existence of institutional factors

no

37. Chaise Guevara

@ 31

That doesn’t change the fact that specialists by definition should be better in their field than people who only deal with it occasionally. You appear to be trying to make something out of nothing.

Further to #28: try this instead.

39. Luis Enrique

cim

yes I agree large regional variation does show it’s not all just down to the intrinsic difficulty of securing convictions with this sort of crime. although if you think that even the most competent forces are still not convicting nearly enough, then you have to consider the ‘intrinsic difficulty’ arguments, don’t you. I agree these surveys reveal unbelievable attitudes towards rape – but I doubt there’s regional variation in these attitudes to match that of conviction rates, so how much role attitudes play w.r.t. conviction is not clear.

@38 – Thanks Dunc, although it was a depressing read. And to answer your original question, I had no idea these kind of questions were used in court, as they are obviously irrelevant

35

“The Fawcett Society did an FOI request fairly recently to get the report-conviction rates for the various UK police regions. On 2007 figures, Dorset had only 1 in 60 reports end in conviction, while in the Cleveland region, 18% of reports resulted in a conviction. 1 in 60 is not what I’d call “taking seriously”. ”

Isn’t a large part of the problem down to resources though? (altho I also totally accept there are institutional and process failings, as well as a lot of work to be done on changing attitudes as well).

Having more specialist units and more training will presumably cost more, so the prospects are hardly good in the current climate are they?

@39: Are you prepared to consider that there may be large regional variations in the institutional cultures of the police forces involved? Police forces are heirarchical organisations after all, and their institutional culture can be strongly influenced by a relatively small number of individuals in leadership positions.

There are clearly at least 3 issues in play here:

1. The attitude and approach taken by the police.
2. The attitudes of juries.
3. The intrinsic difficulty of securing a conviction.

Of those 3, only the first seems likely to exhibit the needed regional variations to explain the variance in conviction rate.

It seems to me that we could make good inroads on points 1 and 2, plus we could introduce or improve further measures such as the Sexual Offences (Procedure and Evidence) (Scotland) Act 2002 to restrict irrelevant and prejudicial cross-examination of victims.

But everybody always wants to focus on issue number 3 – the one we can’t actually do anything about. Why do you think that is?

@40: Fair play. It is depressing, isn’t it?

44. Luis Enrique

Dunc #42

“Are you prepared to consider … ”

of course …. what else did you imagine I thought it was? Also variation in resources, I suppose. Would you mind revising you attitude towards me, I think you’re attributing attitudes / positions to me which I do not hold.

“But everybody always wants to focus on issue number 3 – the one we can’t actually do anything about. Why do you think that is?”

I don’t know about everybody else. I think I was the one asking about that, and I asked about that because I then wanted to ask whether there was something to be done about it.

“And comparing to conviction rates of robbery – honestly… are you losing your damn mind Nick?”

I am not comparing their severity (obviously rape is a more serious crime) just their clear up rate. They are in the same vicinity, so there isn’t any statistical to suggest that rape is treated with less care than other violent crimes. That is all.

Perhaps rape is more deserving of police/sentencing resources as it is particularly heinous, but it is not currently treated badly compared to other crimes.

BTW, what do you want to do with rapists once you’ve convicted them? You are going to need a lot more prison cells if you want to punish them properly, yet humanely. Where does the liberal left stand on that?

@ Luis “ask whether there was something to be done about it.”

I think the only thing that could be done is what you suggest above. However, if you changed the burden of proof to make conviction easier then you would send many more innocent people to jail, (don’t think for a moment that it would stop with rape either, total genie syndrome). I suspect that it would also be in conflict with the HRA, (right to a fair trial), not to mention that I, and I hope many others would fight to stop this principle of justice being abolished.

47. Luis Enrique

I was wondering whether changes could be made to what’s admissible as evidence, to whatever rule meant the witness referred to in the OP and Siobahn’s comment @16 wasn’t admissible and such like.

In addition to efforts to improve police procedures, change public attitudes (i.e. juries) and judge’s attitudes, are there no feasible potential practical changes to be made to the rules of how rape cases are handled and the basis for conviction?

I was hoping somebody might reply with something along the lines of “yes, campaigners says x,y & z ought to be changed” and I’d learn something. Maybe even give judges the ability to use discretion in his word against mine cases, or something (although I can see the problems with that).

I was under the impression that people thought that conviction rates are too low and rapists were habitually going free, implicitly (although I hadn’t before taken the thought this far) even when investigated by the best the police have got. But if it’s mainly a problem that some police forces are just much shitter than the rest, well fine. I mean not fine, clearly that needs to change, but fine as in my line of questioning has turned out to be redundant.

Nothing like a rape thread to reveal the trolls support of a mans right to rape at will.

The very idea that men should not be able to pluck a woman of the street and rape her seems to send the right wing trolls quite made. But then we know that right wing conservatives are anti woman’s rights.

Falco/46: “I think the only thing that could be done is [changing the proof required]”

There was a very recent report by Baroness Stern into (among other things) this issue.

The primary recommendation of the report was that the police, CPS, courts, etc. actually follow the existing guidance consistently. As Cleveland/Dorset shows, that’s enough to make the difference between “virtually none” and “about a fifth” (and there’s no indication that Cleveland’s rate was yet at the “ideal”)

Certainly there are enough rape cases lost via avoidable incompetence (or wilful victim-blaming) that doing better there would be a really good start.

Other possible areas: given the surveys that repeatedly show horrific attitudes to rape are common among a substantial minority of the population, what about a significant improvement in SRE in schools, and follow-up public awareness campaigns for adults, that focused on the meaning of consent, on breaking apart rape myths, etc. At the moment prosecutors have to combat not only the defence lawyers (which is as it should be) but a whole swathe of myths about “she was asking for it”, bad attitudes about what “consent” means, and so on. They don’t have to do that for other crimes, and it makes their job much harder. (Enforcing what rules there are to stop defence lawyers using rape myths as a “defence” would help too) [This also might reduce the prevalence of rape in the first place, too]

What about screening rape juries to make sure that those with strong beliefs in rape myths don’t get onto the jury in the first place? A “jury of your peers” is not supposed to mean “other rapists” after all.

What about providing better support for the victims throughout the process, to encourage them to report the crimes in the first place and to keep them in the process? The woman in the case in the original post was pressured by her rapist and her rapist’s associates to drop the charges, and this sort of behaviour is extremely common (and partly rooted in the rape myths mentioned above). Where’s the investigations for witness intimidation? Where’s the support for witnesses comparable to that given to other witnesses who are likely to face intimidation?

Nick,

“And comparing to conviction rates of robbery – honestly… are you losing your damn mind Nick?”

I am not comparing their severity (obviously rape is a more serious crime) just their clear up rate. They are in the same vicinity, so there isn’t any statistical to suggest that rape is treated with less care than other violent crimes. That is all.

Statistics don’t tell the whole story – we know that in some cases the police have not taken complaints seriously and/or recorded “no crime” when they shouldn’t have, and so on.

51. Luis Enrique

thanks for link to Stern review Cim.

well if she doesn’t see any need to meddle in the legal / rules side of how rape cases are handled, that an answer to my question.

#26; the defence’s case might be that there was consensual sex, and the prosecution might portray the alleged victim as so chaste that it would be inconceivably out of character.

To get a fair trial the defendant surely has to be given a chance to refute that claim?

I don’t know how common that kind of case is, but that’s not what you asked.

(In case that’s not clear, I don’t think an enthusiastic sexual history means a woman wasn’t raped, or her rapist shouldn’t be convicted – only that *if* the prosecution makes an issue of sexual history then the defence needs to be able to refute. Also I’d certainly be in favour of judges making sure that kind of evidence *was* only introduced where relevant).

Absent other considerations, if one third of the public blame the victim a jury will struggle to achieve the requisite majority for a guilty verdict. I’m not sure that reducing the burden of proof would be helpful.

Can’t add to what Cim wrote.

54. Chaise Guevara

@ 52

“the defence’s case might be that there was consensual sex, and the prosecution might portray the alleged victim as so chaste that it would be inconceivably out of character.

To get a fair trial the defendant surely has to be given a chance to refute that claim”

Come to that, if the defendent’s sex life shouldn’t be referenced by the defense except in special circumstances, should that also apply to the prosecution? Genuine question, not sure myself.

Not sure if it will be helpful, but there was a discussion about rape on pharyngula a while back, some of the regulars there opened up about the rapes that happened to them. It’s powerful stuff to read, to say the least. Most resonating statement for me was at comment 359:

I am trapped in a world where I know that I only have equality because the males in my life choose to let me have it, and I can no longer trust anyone with my personal safety. The cops pretty much compounded that feeling.

If we fail rape victims, we have failed at liberty.

56. Chaise Guevara

There was a case fairly recently where the accused was acquited, then discovered that the defendent had been previously found guilty of crying rape. Apparently it wasn’t admissable in court.

I can see the logic behind that, although I’m not at all sure I agree with it, but there must be something wrong if the defence can’t raise a legitimate point like that but can show the jury photos of the claimant wearing a miniskirt that they’ve cribbed from her Facebook page,

57. Chaise Guevara

@ 55

“If we fail rape victims, we have failed at liberty.”

Trouble is, if we fail those falsely accused we have equally failed at liberty (arguably more: sins of omission and commission and all that).

Even under the most effective legal system possible in a liberal society, some criminals of all types would get away with their crimes, simply due to lack of evidence. You’re setting the bar for “failure” as “not achieving the unachievable”.

All that said, there are improvements to be made, as noted above.

One in ten women are expected to be raped in their lifetime. These figures do not account for the women that don’t speak about the ordeal I suspect this number would be far greater if it did.

There are 2.5 million victims of rape in Britain today? Or in fact a number “far greater”? Really? That’s pretty hard to believe. I think you’re making it up.

59. mediocrity511

“There are 2.5 million victims of rape in Britain today? Or in fact a number “far greater”? Really? That’s pretty hard to believe. I think you’re making it up.”

Let me guess, your male?
Obviously being a rape victim isn’t something that women wear openly on their sleeves and is something that is seldom talked about in mixed company. But out of women who I know intimately enough to share something like that, that statistic really doesn’t surprise me. Sometimes the truth is shocking.

#59; it’s only really a statistic if it comes with some meaningful evidence. Until then it’s just a story.

61. Chaise Guevara

@59

Please don’t turn this into some kind of battle of the sexes. Men have been known to get raped as well.

62. SpiderComeHome

“@59

Please don’t turn this into some kind of battle of the sexes. Men have been known to get raped as well.”

Most definitely: usually by other men.

63. Chaise Guevara

@ 62

Absolutely. What’s your point?

#59; it’s only really a statistic if it comes with some meaningful evidence

Home Office survey: 1 in ten women say they’ve suffered sexual victimisation (read molestation) including rape:
http://rds.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/pdfs2/r159.pdf

It’s not the same, though some women define sexual victimisation as rape (if taken as a sliding scale).

65. Chaise Guevara

@ 64

If what you say is true, Sunny, then the 1 in 10 claim is dishonest scaremongering (dishonest at some point, anyway; I suspect most people who cite it believe it to be true, so they’ve been misled).

This is actually important, because inaccurate claims about the prevalence and conviction rate of rape lead people to call for pretty heavy-handed solutions, such as changes to the law that amount to the removal of due process.

@13

“Rape is an act of dominance and violence, not sexual. It is not love making that got carried away”

I have second-hand knowledge of two rapists.

One used to work with a friend, and once personally endorsed the view that rape was about power, not sex (in the context of a conversation about a movie plot). Obviously that looked pretty sinister in hindsight, after his conviction as a predatory serial rapist.

The other raped someone close to me. She’d danced with him at a club, and later he just wouldn’t take no for an answer in response to his attempts at seduction; but he stopped partway through and (as she describes it) cried and couldn’t believe what he’d done. He certainly didn’t seem to ‘get off’ on dominating her.

So I’m wary of sweeping generalisations about rape; there are men out there who actually seek and enjoy violent, non-consensual penetration as an act of dominance (though I don’t see why we should deny that their enjoyment of it is ‘sexual’), and there are also men who seek consensual sex but end up raping a woman when she won’t provide it because they have erections where their consciences should be and/or faulty beliefs about how a woman who dances, dresses, kisses like that (etc.) must be gagging for it really.

Chaise,

This is actually important, because inaccurate claims about the prevalence and conviction rate of rape lead people to call for pretty heavy-handed solutions, such as changes to the law that amount to the removal of due process.Agreed. It’s not quibbling – the ‘narrative’ is important. If the ‘narrative’ is that there are millions of rapes and there is no point in reporting any to the police, I think the consequences are obvious.

In law, rape, sexual assault and so on have specific meanings. From the Stern Review:

The British Crime Survey is a study carried out each year based on interviews with 46,000 people over 16 years of age. Over 23,000 people were asked questions on intimate violence. The results from this survey suggest that 11 per cent of those who have been raped tell the police about it. The official crime statistics show that in England and Wales in 2008/9, 12,129 rapes of women and 964 rapes of men were recorded by the police.The most recent data, the British Crime Survey from 2008/9, show that the lifetime prevalence for rape and attempted rape in those over 16 was nearly one in 24 women (4.2 per cent) and one in 200 men (0.5 per cent).

If there are 12,129 rapes of women recorded by the police, but only 11 per cent of women who are raped report it to the police, this suggests 110,263 rapes of women a year (assuming the police record things properly – sometimes they don’t).

sorry – html fail – should be a /blockquote after “due process”.

@48 – I’ve missed your cutting edge analysis of current events, do you have a blog of your own I could read?

@44: Sorry Luis, I’ve been around the feminist blogosphere long enough to have seen this sort of thing play out so many times I’ve lost count. You see the same questions, the same unwillingness to take the reported experiences of people who have actually been on the sharp end of things seriously, the same “WHAT ABOUT TEH MENZ!!!!”, etc, etc on every single thread in which the subject of rape is mentioned. I sometimes forget that other people haven’t seen all this crap a million times before, and I tend to assume the worst.

@62
One of the related points is the concept of toxic masculinity, ie ideas about what constitutes male behaviour which are inherently toxic. Toxic masculinity and sex combine in excessively complicated and messy ways which inevitably boil down to adversarial approaches toward sexual partners. In essence, rather than sex being what you ‘have’ with someone it becomes something you ‘get’ from someone. When sex happens, it means the man has won.

In this mindset rape merely becomes the most extreme method of ‘getting’ sex. Toxic masculinity is attributed to being a response to feminism and indeed increased acceptance of lgbt’s, because one of it’s main features is a belligerent attitude toward those breaking gender norms. It’s quite a pernicious influence on society due to it often flying under the radar, you may or may not have experienced the joy of reading articles about how boys playing with tea sets rather than toy guns is something which you should be terrified of, they’re a good example. When the meme infects women and lgbt’s it’s self destructive influence is not to be underestimated.
Combatting that in the public sphere would also be a good step to ensuring that no is fully understood to mean no.

72. Chaise Guevara

@ 70

The problem with the phrase “WHAT ABOUT TEH MENZ!!!”, and I do mean that phrase specifically, is it does pretty strongly state that the person who said it doesn’t give a crap about men, at least in this context. I really don’t think it’s a reasonable or grown-up response to people’s concerns about false rape convictions.

Basically, in my experience it’s thrown at people who believe in due process in an attempt to bully them off the thread.

Sunny/64 and Chaise/65: For other statistics, all confirming the same sort of numbers.
– The recent “Where is your line” report for the Havens found that 41% of 18-25 year olds in London had been “pressurised into some form of sex that they didn’t want”. Depending on the exact circumstances this might be rape, assault by penetration, sexual assault, or (sadly) perfectly legal. In the “sex without consent” definition (which is not the same as the legal definition, though it should be), it’s rape.
– An NSPCC survey on teenagers aged 13-17 found that 90% had been in an “intimate relationship”. Of those one in six girls has been “pressured into sexual intercourse” and one in sixteen had been raped.
– The British Crime Survey finds that 0.2% of adults aged 16-59 have been victims of rape at least once in the last 12 months. Multiplying that up gets you pretty close to 1 in 10 will be raped at least once between 16 and 59 (and of course, more so for women than men)
– numerous surveys on undetected perpetrators (look up David Lisak’s website for a summary of several) find that between 5% and 15% of men will admit on an anonymous survey to a narrow set of behaviours unambiguously meeting the legal definition of rape or sexual assault, and most of them have done so multiple times. They have to be raping someone.

It’s really quite difficult to get good statistics on the prevalence of rape (other than really common) because of the stigma attached to being a rape victim. It makes people very unwilling to admit it other people – especially to surveyors – and it makes people very unwilling to admit to themselves: there are plenty of easily locatable accounts of people who were sexually assaulted or raped, suffered psychologically as a result, but couldn’t bring themselves to call it rape or sexual assault until much later – perhaps decades later. It’s a well-documented phenomenon.

Chaise, the exact figure depends on what you define as “rape”. By the strict legal definition in the Sexual Offences Act 2003, the figure might be lower than 1 in 10, but not by much. If you include “assault by penetration” and the serious sexual assaults (which you should, despite them being separate crimes in law) the figure is definitely higher than 1 in 10.

Furthermore, the number of victims is considerably less than the number of crimes: many victims are raped repeatedly. Surveys don’t cover this, usually, but it’s a separate crime each time.

It might, perhaps, only be 1 in 20 for rape in the strict legal sense. But the homicide rate – a crime with the same sentence as rape – is around 500 times lower. If at least 1 in 20 of the population’s cause of death was homicide we would not be particularly fussy about whether the actual rate was 1 in 20 or 1 in 10 or 1 in 5. (Note that the death by violence rate in Iraq, for instance, is well below any of those figures, even at the most extreme estimates, and is still considered to be incredibly high)

Chaise/61: Please don’t turn this into some kind of battle of the sexes. Men have been known to get raped as well.

It is not “[turning] this into some kind of battle” to note that:
– women are more likely to get raped than men (by a significant margin)
– regardless of the actual odds, men are on average less likely to believe that they might be raped than women, and less likely to fear it as a realistic possibility.
– men are more likely to be rapists (in both the legal and colloquial senses) than women.
– men are more likely than women to massively underestimate the prevalence of rape (including rape of men)
It’s a crime with a massive gender bias in perpetrators and victims. It’s not turning things into a battle to acknowledge that. (Nor, incidentally, are any of the suggested reforms being proposed by anti-rape campaigners ones that would not also help male victims, even though the majority of victims are women)

cim,

If at least 1 in 20 of the population’s cause of death was homicide we would not be particularly fussy about whether the actual rate was 1 in 20 or 1 in 10 or 1 in 5.

very good point.

72/Chaise: Oh, another statistic for you.

The chance of a man being raped is approximately 1 in 4,000 each year. (BCS supplement)

The chance of a man being falsely accused [1] of raping someone else is approximately 1 in 120,000 each year, with actual arrest or charge even less likely. (Extrapolated from figures in Kelly, Lovett and Regan 2005)

The former figure I’m concerned about. The latter figure, not so much. People who are focusing on the latter figure over and above either the former figure or the even higher figure for rape of women are I think engaging in behaviour that can be fairly described as “What about the [particularly narrow subset of] menz”

[1] In the colloquial sense. In the strict legal sense it’s entirely possible for there to be a victim of (colloquial) rape but no (legal) rapist, because of a loophole in the law. But I think it’s extremely misleading to count that as a false accusation: the loophole should be closed.

76. Chaise Guevara

@ 73

That’s a lot of info, so I’ll try to return to it when I’m not at work. But a couple of things: statistics about rape should refer to rape, not rape and sexual assault. Otherwise it’s misleading at best and propoganda at worst. I am, however, surprised that assault by penetration doesn’t legally count as rape: I thought it did and think it should.

Your first figure, about people being pressurized into sex: considering how high that is, I suspect a lot of it is less sinister than you think. I’ve been pressurized into sex (in that I wasn’t in the mood but my girlfriend of the time was and I didn’t want to upset her), but that’s hardly a big deal. Your belief that this sort of thing should be illegal (if I’m reading you right) is actually a little scary; you could take almost any instance of people having sex and twist it to suggest that one or both were “pressurized”.

“It is not “[turning] this into some kind of battle” to note that…” etc.

If you look back through the thread, you’ll see I wrote that in response to someone trying to ad hom another poster (“let me guess, you’re a man”). Clearly an attempt to start a fight in gender terms. You can’t just randomly apply it as a response to any statement you can come up with.

“The chance of a man being falsely accused [1] of raping someone else is approximately 1 in 120,000 each year, with actual arrest or charge even less likely. (Extrapolated from figures in Kelly, Lovett and Regan 2005)”

Could you explain how you extrapolated the figures to arrive at that please? I’ve had a look but don’t see how you got to it and on an admittedly anecdotal basis I suspect it’s a little off.

@76 This should explain it S2 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003:

2 Assault by penetration
(1) A person (A) commits an offence if—
(a) he intentionally penetrates the vagina or anus of another person (B) with a part of his body or anything else,
(b) the penetration is sexual,
(c) B does not consent to the penetration, and
(d) A does not reasonably believe that B consents.
(2) Whether a belief is reasonable is to be determined having regard to all the circumstances, including any steps A has taken to ascertain whether B consents.
(3) Sections 75 and 76 apply to an offence under this section.
(4) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable, on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for life.

———————-

So it carries the same sentence but is a slightly different classification.

@72: I very much believe in due process.

But a couple of things: statistics about rape should refer to rape, not rape and sexual assault. Otherwise it’s misleading at best and propoganda at worst.

Rape, legally, is defined extremely narrowly. There are a number of sexual activities (forcing someone to penetrate you, for instance) that many people would consider rape if it happened to them that are legally “only” sexual assault.

Your belief that this sort of thing should be illegal

Not all of it should be illegal, but you can currently have the situation where someone who is terrified of their rapist and therefore gives no indication that they don’t consent for fear that they’ll turn violent – as is probably quite common in abusive relationships, which are themselves very common (1 in 4 of the girls in the NSPCC survey had been assaulted by a partner, for instance) – has definitely been pressured into sex but in legal terms has not been raped or even sexually assaulted (even though they didn’t consent). Other crimes might have been committed to cause that pre-existing state of fear, of course, but our justice system’s handling of domestic abuse and domestic violence is also appallingly bad.

That should be illegal. From what you’ve stated, the situation in your relationship was not one of those, and should be legal (but still, I’d consider it something that better SRE should try to deal with nonetheless, because the line between that and rape/sexual assault is uncomfortably narrow and frequently crossed)

81. Chaise Guevara

@ 79 Dunc.

” I very much believe in due process.”

Fair enough. Obviously you’ve using “what about the menz” in a different context to what I’m used to. What are you referring to when you say it, then?

82. Luis Enrique

cheers Dunc.

looking back at my earlier comments I realize, to my discomfort, that whilst I knew I was starting from the presumption “conviction rates are so low that ‘attitude’ explanations can’t be sufficient” it looked very much like I was merely dismissing any claims about attitudes/police/institutional failings all together. That, and I think I did underestimate how bad that can be – that data on regional variation, some of those attitudes surveys, the Stern report, were eye openers. And on further thought, the answer to the question “should we lower standards of evidence?” was probably obviously ‘no’, although I’d still be interested in any incremental potential changes to how rape trials are handled.

@77: Sure. They have a sample of 2,643 reported rapes – which is a pretty large sample, a significant fraction of those reported annually, and so probably representative. Of those 8% had been classified by the police as “false”. (KL&R go on to show that many of the false accusation classifications were probably themselves wrong, and 3% might be the real figure, but to get the highest chance of a false accusation, let’s ignore that for this calculation, and/or assume that all the named suspects below fell into the 3% sub-group anyway).

Out of those 8% (200ish) there were only 39 named suspects. (Who I’ve assumed for this calculation were all men, to get the highest chance of a false accusation) The majority of false accusations – as is well documented by repeated studies – do not name a perpetrator.

Scaling up to the number of rapes actually reported annually (from Home Office figures) gives at most 200 falsely named suspects. Divide by the number of men aged 16-59 in the UK (to make the ratio comparable with the BCS data) to get the result.

(Of those 39 only 6 were arrested and only 2 charged, incidentally: no record of how many of the 33 who weren’t arrested were questioned but not arrested)

84. Chaise Guevara

@ 80 Cim

“Rape, legally, is defined extremely narrowly”

I agree, but that doesn’t make it ok to define all sexual assault as rape. Pinching someone’s bum could probably be defined as sexual assault.

“Not all of it should be illegal, but you can currently have the situation where someone who is terrified of their rapist and therefore gives no indication that they don’t consent for fear that they’ll turn violent”

This is tricky to deal with, and I’m wary of backing those who seem to think that the man (but hardly ever the woman, funnily enough) should practically get full written permission on each occasion, what you might call the “saying nothing means no” attitude. Still, you’re right: if the victim knows from experience that a refusal will result in a beating, that’s rape to all intents and purposes. On the other hand, the fact that a person has raised a hand to their spouse, while deplorable in itself, does not automatically mean that any future sex between the couple is rape. Like I say, tricky.

“From what you’ve stated, the situation in your relationship was not one of those, and should be legal (but still, I’d consider it something that better SRE should try to deal with nonetheless, because the line between that and rape/sexual assault is uncomfortably narrow and frequently crossed)”

Don’t know what “SRE” means. However, I’m at a loss to see how the situation I described (i.e. “oh, go on then”) is a hair’s breadth from rape.

There is a solution to the low rape conviction rate, one which doesn’t mean abandoning fair trials, civil liberties etc.

However, I doubt it’ll get much support because of the mantra that “rape is rape”.

There is a spectrum, a continuum (as there is for almost everything of course) ranging from stranger rape, the “classic” knife wielding thug leaping out of the bushes, through to cases where people are in an ongoing sexual relationship but this particular instance of sex is without permission.

These are all rape as classified. And the penalties are calculated (the prison terms upon conviction etc) upon the basis of stranger rape.

But juries are notably reluctant to convict at the other end of that spectrum when the penalties are so heavy.

The solution is therefore to drop the insistence that rape is rape and divide it into two or more offences, carrying different punishments. As we do with murder and manslaughter for example (and further on down, negligence leading to death, etc etc).

As an example, a case for a decade or more ago. Trainee lawyer, gets drunk at a party, using spare bedroom/couch sort of thing to sleep. He sticks on a green luminous condom (it’s that detail that makes the case stick in the mind) and leaps into the other bed where there’s another party goer sleeping.

Fancy a shag? sort of conversation, upon being told firmly, no, go away, eventually he does.

Prosecuted and sentenced to two years for attempted rape. If I had been on that jury I certainly wouldn’t have voted to convict. He’s guilty of something, sure, boorishness, unwanted sexual advances, possibly common or sexual assault (at the distance in time I can’t remember how much groping etc was reported) but attempted rape?

I don’t think we’re capable of solving this without making that distinction, in law, charging and punishments, between that stranger rape and sex that one party didn’t want to happen.

And it’s absolutely nothing at all to do with logic or philosophy. It’s that juries already do make this distinction and the law should reflect that.

Pinching someone’s bum could probably be defined as sexual assault.

It is.

The problem is that rape is defined extremely narrowly, sexual assault is defined extremely widely and covers everything from rape-but-not-legally-rape to much more minor assaults.

On the other hand I can’t see a way – outside of the existing “judge’s discretion on sentencing” – to legally split sexual assault into minor and major forms without leaving various things on the “wrong side”.

practically get full written permission on each occasion

Now there’s a straw-argument (and yes, you weren’t literally suggesting them, I know). Since consent can be withdrawn at any time (or it’s not actually consent) a pre-written “contract” or similar is pretty worthless. I’ve never seen any anti-rape campaigners ever suggest it or anything like it as a solution.

I do know of one case where a group of rapists did force their victim into expressing “consent” in writing in the hope that it would discourage reporting and make acquittal easier. I can’t remember if it worked or not for them in court.

Of course, per the Havens survey, around 46% of men and 25% of women (aged 18-25 in London) don’t believe it’s rape to continue if consent is given and then withdrawn.

Certainly I do believe that in the absence of indicators of consent the correct assumption is that there isn’t any and the correct course of action is to check. And obviously this applies to both men and women. (Not all indicators of consent need be verbal, but the Havens survey suggests that many people are stunningly bad – possibly wilfully so – at correctly interpreting even the unambiguous verbal ones, and that men are in general worse at it)

does not automatically mean that any future sex between the couple is rape.

No, it doesn’t. Another complicating factor in getting prevalence estimates. (At any rate, “way too high” is a sufficient estimate – as I said I don’t really care if it’s 1 in 50 or 1 in 5)

SRE is “Sex and Relationships Education”. I didn’t intend to say that situation was a hairs-breadth from rape. Unfortunately, there are plenty of people who think that the pressure they are applying is of that sort when actually its of the highly coercive sort. It’s the latter who are (if they’re not there already) rapists.

85/Tim – that’s already (legally) possible. Everything covered in the definitions of rape and assault by penetration is also covered by the crime of sexual assault. And indeed many rape cases do end with a conviction for sexual assault rather than for rape.

Anyway… 2 years for attempted rape, or up to 16 years for sexual assault. Plenty of sentencing flexibility there. Given the sexual assault sentence that was possible he probably got away quite lightly.

If there was evidence that the seriousness of the psychological effects on the victim in a case of stranger rape and in a case of acquaintance/partner rape were significantly different (and I’ve never seen any) then there might be a case for splitting the two crimes.

I’m very wary of using the jury’s current approach as justification, because given the high prevalence of myths about rape, rapists and rape victims I’m quite frankly surprised that anyone other than the stereotypical stranger rapists gets convicted at all on a 10/12 majority requirement.

Tim Worstall

“There is a spectrum, a continuum”

And this is recognised in sentencing policy. “The principle that offences involving sexual penetration are more serious than non-penetrative sexual assault is reflected in the higher maximum penalty accorded in statute to these offences”

http://www.sentencingcouncil.org.uk/docs/web_SexualOffencesAct_2003.pdf

“this particular instance of sex is without permission”

The word you’re looking for is consent. Sex without consent is rape. End of.

89. Chaise Guevara

“Of course, per the Havens survey, around 46% of men and 25% of women (aged 18-25 in London) don’t believe it’s rape to continue if consent is given and then withdrawn.”

Ok, that’s very worrying indeed and needs to be addressed.

“Certainly I do believe that in the absence of indicators of consent the correct assumption is that there isn’t any and the correct course of action is to check. And obviously this applies to both men and women. ”

I think the problem is when people think indicators exist, but they don’t. People don’t always clearly ask each other permission each time they instigate sex. Perhaps the message should be that the sort of indicators you would use with a partner (whose body language you know, and who presumably would feel safe asking you to stop) are not necessarily enough on a one-night stand.

One thing that bothers me (although I accept it’s inevitable over an issue like this) is when you get cases of genuine miscommunication, following which the male (normally) is branded as an evil rapist, whereas all he’s guilty of is a form of negligence. Perhaps that negligence in itself should be a crime, but it doesn’t make him a rapist. Intentions are important.

“Unfortunately, there are plenty of people who think that the pressure they are applying is of that sort when actually its of the highly coercive sort. ”

Ultimately, this is about line-drawing and what “highly” means in the sentence above, and I guess people are always going to differ on their definitions. I used to consider that rape was basically sex + coercion, until I realised how broad that term is.

@81

Fair enough. Obviously you’ve using “what about the menz” in a different context to what I’m used to. What are you referring to when you say it, then?

I was referring to the astonishing way in which any discussion of rape inevitably seems to involve a great deal more worrying about the rather rare problem of men being falsely accused / convicted than it does about the vastly more common problem of women being raped or sexually assaulted (at least on the part of certain participants). The way some people go on, you’d think the rates for “women raped or sexually assaulted” and “men falsely accused or convicted of rape” were exactly reversed. That is what I mean by “what about teh menz!”

You basically never see this with other classes of crime: I don’t think I’ve ever seen any discussion about any other crime get derailed by people wailing about false accusations or convictions (despite the fact that these undoubtedly happen), but every single thread about rape in the entire history of the internet suffers from this problem. And then people wonder why women get the idea that men don’t take rape seriously enough…

“Sex without consent is rape. End of.”

Thanks for confirming my point.

Which leaves us still with juries unwilling to convict of rape those who don’t meet the stranger rape criteria: and yet a desire to increase the conviction rate.

Something’s got to give here if the goal is to be reached.

92. Chaise Guevara

@ 90 Dunc

“I was referring to the astonishing way in which any discussion of rape inevitably seems to involve a great deal more worrying about the rather rare problem of men being falsely accused / convicted than it does about the vastly more common problem of women being raped or sexually assaulted (at least on the part of certain participants). The way some people go on, you’d think the rates for “women raped or sexually assaulted” and “men falsely accused or convicted of rape” were exactly reversed. That is what I mean by “what about teh menz!””

People get worried about false convictions because other people advocate the removal of due process, which would lead to massive false conviction rates. You said you’re in favour of due process, so why are you parroting an attack used by those who want it removed?

“You basically never see this with other classes of crime”

Terrorism, for exactly the same reason. If people routinely advocated removal of the right to a fair trial for murder, theft, whatever, you’d see people “wailing” about false convictions there too. The reason you don’t is that it generally only seems to happen with these two crimes.

@90 Don’t forget the discussions about FGM that will also inevitably be diverted by men toward foreskin circumcision, and how that is just as damaging…

94. Chaise Guevara

@ 93

All right, that one is fucking stupid. It’s as if the fact the same word is used to describe them means that they can’t possibly be different in reality.

95. Luis Enrique

Cath

yes, agreed. But Tim’s point is different, isn’t it?

A continuum can still have a point on it (sex without consent) above which everything is classified as rape. If I understand him, he’s not disputing rape=sex without consent=an appalling brutal hateful act, he’s suggesting that juries are reluctant to convict because they don’t like putting all cases of rape (sex without consent) into the same category and that if, say, two categories were created (greater and lesser rape) you might see conviction rates going up.

It’s not about sentencing policy, it’s about getting guilty verdicts. It’s also not a statement about how you think things ought to work in principle, it’s a statement about how things are working in practice, and it’s being suggested as a means of increasing conviction rates on the basis that too many rapists, particularly the kinds of rape that are not ‘violent assault by stranger’, are being found not guilty by juries. It might be preferable to change how people think so that juries no longer display this reluctance to convict; this is an alternative, potentially more effective, idea.

What are the objections to this? I think the most obvious is that it would diminish the seriousness of the crime, and secondly that it would undermine the message: sex without consent is rape, that we all want men to take on board. Is that enough to outweigh the gains of an increased conviction rate (assuming conviction rates would increase). Nobody is suggesting that ‘lesser rape’ should be anything other than a very serious offense, in fact you could equally see the proposed change not as the creation of a lesser offense, but of the creation of a new even greater offense ‘greater rape’.

This fits with the (amazing to me) survey responses showing how many people don’t consider rape to be rape. I agree that the correct definition of rape is sex without consent, but if by the word rape you think of ‘greater’ rape (very violent assault on a stranger) then you may answer “x isn’t rape” because you have a different definition of rape in mind. This of course is why campaigners think it’s so important to push the message that all sex without consent is rape … but if that effort is failing, and people are stubbornly stuck on thinking rape=violent assault on stranger, then that’s consistent with, well, most of what’s been argued above. It’s almost semantics – if we had another word for sex without consent, we could abandon the word rape, at leave it meaning violent assault on stranger, and when people are asked about this new word in surveys, and juries are asked to convict people of this new word, we might see better results. And of course defining a new word doesn’t entail changing your view of the thing it refers to, it wouldn’t entail saying that sex without consent is now regarded as not such a big deal.

oh I don’t know – anyway, strikes me as worth thinking about, because (and we all agree on this don’t we?) we want to see more men who force others to have sex without their consent, getting convicted.

Bear in mind I write as somebody almost entirely ignorant of the law as currently exists so I may need correcting on much of the above.

@94 Aye, that it is.
In broad terms the phrase “WHAT ABOUT THE MENZ!” ended up being coined in response to the observed pattern of a discussion regarding issues that mainly effect women, being diverted to concentrate on men, by (usually well meaning, don’t realise they’re doing it) men. The diversion kinda reinforces in some feminist’s minds that woman’s concerns are considered to not count, hence the hostility the phrase conveys.

97. Luis Enrique

re: diverting discussion to issues that effect men

take a look at the “about” section of cim’s blog:

http://refusingthedefault.blogspot.com/p/about-refusing-default.html

98. Chaise Guevara

@ 96

That’s one way of looking at it. See my point at 92 on why I think this might actually have been caused by the other side, though: how “what about the menz” may well be a valid defensive position.

All that said, I mainly hang around liberal blogs like this one, so I see a lot more of the extremist “all men are basically rapists” attitude than the extremist “rapists are misunderstood lambs led astray by sluts” attitude. Quite possibly in other places you’d find that the “what about the menz” thing is aggressive rather than defensive, and that if I had more experience of these places I’d have reached different conclusions.

@93:

Don’t forget the discussions about FGM that will also inevitably be diverted by men toward foreskin circumcision, and how that is just as damaging…

Oh yes, that is a classic. I wonder what the two subjects have in common? No, don’t tell me, I’m sure I can figure it out… 😉

I think the media has a huge part to play in all of this. Particularly with regards to the reporting on false accusations – they are, without fail, always over-represented with a HUGE BOLD headline and half a the time an editorial. To put it into context, for every false rape allegation that the press reports they should fill absolutely every single other column inch with reports of rapes that did happen. Juries attitudes to rape remember come from all sorts of outside interests and the main newspapers that people read in this country play up to the rape-as-myth meme.

101. Chaise Guevara

Agree with 100.

Luis @97 – is that an attack on cim?

I’ve been watching the comments flow in this morning and have to say that there is a lot of disgraceful rubbish on here! cim has been very patient and polite. I don’t know how cim has managed this!

‘Something’s got to give here if the goal is to be reached.’

Yes, neanderthal views like yours have to give Tim. As Cath says, sex without consent is rape. There are no tiers or category or rape. You have utterly disgraced yourself on this thread.

*of* rape, not ‘or’.

104. Luis Enrique

earwicga – Christ no, the opposite. Endorsement.

Thanks for the clarification Luis.

Rape awareness training for judges?

Yes! There are rules on what questions are permissible in court, and how they are phrased is very important. Judges are either unaware of these or uninterested. Helena Kennedy has written about this in Eve Was Framed.

106. Luis Enrique

and earwicga I think you have not understood Tim’s point and you are calling him a neanderthal and disgraceful when you ought not be.

107. Chaise Guevara

@ 106

Agreed. Tim’s point is one of those things that looks bad at first glance, but in fact makes sense when you realise he’s suggesting changes that would increase convictions of guilty rapists. He’s not making light of any of these offences.

On the contrary, I understand exactly what Tim is saying. And I understand the implications of tiering rape into ‘greater and lesser rape’.

@83 Thanks for that Cim. Not only had I not gone through the figures to the extent required but I hadn’t realised that “accused” in this case meant “reported to the police” rather than accused in any sense which I should have picked up on.

110. Chaise Guevara

108

“On the contrary, I understand exactly what Tim is saying. And I understand the implications of tiering rape into ‘greater and lesser rape’.”

So the fact that he wants to make sure that people guilty of sexual assualt don’t escape justice makes him a “neanderthal” who has “disgraced himself”, eh? Interesting definition.

Or, if you do understand him and simply think his suggestion would cause more problems than it solves, why are you throwing abuse at him?

111. Luis Enrique

earwicga

can you explain what you think the implications of “tiering rape into ‘greater and lesser rape’” are and why you find the idea so objectionable and what you think Tim’s real agenda is etc.

these are genuine questions I am not trying to score points

Does having a manslaughter charge indicate that society thinks it’s sometimes okay to kill people?

Somebody who deliberately rapes a partner is just as bad as somebody who hides in the bushes and rapes a stranger.

Somebody who doesn’t take as much care as they should to be sure of consent has certainly done something very wrong, committed a crime, and deserves to be punished – but to say their crime is indistinguishable from the first type is just nonsense.

Rapes a lot like immigration, if you say anything that can be construed even slightly as a criticism of the OP then your obviously a troll.

S Pill #100; fair as far as it goes, but the relative prevalence of true and false accusations shouldn’t be all that relevant to a jury. If a false accusation is a *reasonable* interpretation of the evidence, the correct verdict has to be not guilty.

115. Luis Enrique

Dave,

well I sort of sympathize with that point, but I think Duncan’s is a better one.

@115 – Its gotta be all or nothing though, in this kind of thread your forced into a side automatically. It seems imposible to try and even approach a balanced argument

117. Chaise Guevara

@ 115 Luis

I disagree. If someone suggests removing your right to be considered innocent till proven otherwise, it’s entirely reasonable to protest. The fact that people like to represent such protest as WHAT ABOUT ALL TEH MENZ is their problem, not that of people demanding due process.

Don’t demand someone’s rights be taken away and then act shocked when they disagree.

@117 Has anyone suggested due process be abandoned? I’ve had a quick scan but wasn’t sufficient to find those calling for the scrapping of due process.

If someone suggests removing your right to be considered innocent till proven otherwise, it’s entirely reasonable to protest.

But is it still “entirely reasonable” to protest about this when nobody is actually suggesting that?

120. Chaise Guevara

“But is it still “entirely reasonable” to protest about this when nobody is actually suggesting that?”

Well, what were you objecting to when you raised it, then? IanVisits mentioned due process in response to the OP, which does seem to refer to a rapist being found not guilty, thus sidelining presumed innocence. Was that what you meant by “what about the menz”?

If someone raises due process, and you go “oh, WHAT ABOUT THE MENZ???!!!!” in response, it does sound like you’re against a fair trial.

@114

Well, yeah, but it’d be daft to imagine that the stupidly OTT reaction to false accusations in the red-tops doesn’t make a difference. As I said, I’d like to see properly balanced reporting of rape – we don’t hear anywhere near the same amount of reporting about false accusations of other crimes (with the exception of murder perhaps with regards to miscarriages of justice, etc – but a different thing entirely).

122. Chaise Guevara

*Also, your post that Luis was refering to was talking about this comes up in “any discussion of rape”. Did you just mean the ones were it was unprovoked?

123. Luis Enrique

sorry, it was me who sent things pear shaped by asking about the potential for changes to ‘due process’ in rape cases.

124. Chaise Guevara

@ 123

In fairness, I think it’s a fairly constant theme in this sort of conversation, along with unpleasant ideas on the other side of the debate such as “she was asking for it”.

Luis/111: The problem with that tiering is that it goes exactly in the wrong direction and validates rather than challenges the attitudes (on juries, in the general public) that are a problem in the first place – that “it wasn’t rape-rape” (to quote one of Polanski’s defenders, for instance).

If we had a situation where juries (statistically) inexplicably believed that construction workers were allowed to shoplift but other people weren’t, the solution suggested would not be a lesser offence of ‘shoplifting as a construction worker’ (or a greater offence of ‘shoplifting while not a construction worker’, if you prefer).

(I know, not a great analogy, but the public and consequently jury attitudes to consent and rape are utterly bizarre and without obvious parallels elsewhere in law)

@120: I explained exactly what I meant in comment #90, and Cylux further explained the meaning and history of the phrase in dispute in comment #96 – an explanation which you apparently accepted in your response in comment #98. Further discussion and exposition on the “WATM” argument and it’s prevalance and perception in the feminist blogoshpere is available here. Or you could just google it.

IanVisits mentioned due process in response to the OP … Was that what you meant by “what about the menz”?

No. I did not respond to IanVisits in any way, shape, or form. You might notice that when I’m responding to people, I tend to include the comment number and quote the specific text I’m responding to.

You seem to be going in circles here. For the sake of maximum clarity: my use of the phrase “WHAT ABOUT TEH MENZ!” (and all other uses of it which I have ever encountered online which I can recall at the moment) was intended as a sarcastic (and to a large extent pre-emptive) observation of how discussions of issues which primarily affect women get derailed into discussions of issues which primarily affect men. It was not in any way related to any discussion about the removal of due process – which, in this thread at least, has consisted solely of a small number of people defending the concept from entirely imaginary attacks by equally imaginary people. Nobody, least of all me, wants to remove the presumption of innocence.

Ah crap… In #126, only the text “IanVisits mentioned due process in response to the OP … Was that what you meant by “what about the menz”?” should be blockquoted.

128. Chaise Guevara

@ 126

So you’re discussing a general trend. My point is that you seem to be assuming that the kind of behaviour you’re describing comes out of thin air, whereas I’m saying that in my experience it’s generally a reaction to illiberal demands made by other commenters.

So you can call it “entirely imaginary” when I do it and “pre-emptive” when you do it, but the fact is we’re discussing the same thing, and you’re ignoring the fact that this behaviour (ignoring a few idiotic comments about circumcision) is likely to be defensive in nature.

In other words, it’s ok for you to refer to previous conversations about this, but not for me to do the same thing.

Oh, for fuck’s sake… “WHAT ABOUT TEH MENZ” is a widely-used idiomatic expression with a well-known history and meaning. If you choose to interpret it differently because you are tragically unaware of the wider culture in which this discourse is embedded, that’s not really my fault.

Thanks for providing such a sterling example of the phenomenon though.

Oh, for fuck’s sake. “WHAT ABOUT TEH MENZ!” is a widely-used idiomatic expression with a well-known history and meaning. If you choose to interpret it differently because you are unaware of the wider cultural context in which this discussion is embedded, that’s not entirely my fault.

Thanks for providing such a sterling example of the phenomenon though.

131. Chaise Guevara

@ 129

I see. “A widely-used idiomatic expression with a well-known history and meaning” is the same thing as “right”. I’ll remember that next time uses a well-known idiom like “it’s always in the last place you look.

If you want to bring up your personal experience but consider mine verboten and the conversation falls apart as a result, that is your fault.

“Thanks for providing such a sterling example of the phenomenon though.”

When did I do that? Saying a response can be justified isn’t the same as ignoring the plight of the victim in rape (thanks for implying I do that, by the way, it’s very kind of you). You were the one who brought it up, not me.

One of the problems with these discussions is people on both sides tend to assume that if one person has opinions “X” and “Y”, then when somebody else comes along with opinion “X” they must also have opinion “Y”.

So somebody will make a perfectly reasonable observation, some lunatic will agree with it, and the original poster is assumed to believe everything the lunatic does.

Worse, the correlation is reinforced each time until it seems obvious that anybody deviating from the strict doctrinally pure position is an inhuman monster who just hasn’t revealed themselves yet.

133. Chaise Guevara

@ 131

I’m not sure whether that’s aimed at me or Dunc (or neither or both), but I’ll stick my neck out and say I agree with you. It happens a lot in the really polarized fields like the abortion debate (when I get involved, I’m assumed to be a lifer by the choicers and a choicer by the lifer).

Chaise (131); both, and others, and also me 🙂 Just one of those things monkey brains are bad at, I think.

@128
I will add that it doesn’t come out of thin air, no. It comes from the rather unfortunate desire of us men to talk at great length about ourselves.
A WATM thread derail can come from someone over emphasising male rape, they think they’re being helpful by trying to get the guys on board a bit more. But all they are really demonstrating is that it has to happen to men first, before it becomes important, before it’s taken as seriously as the crime should be. It isn’t intended, but the effect is the same.

Likewise the discussion in this thread is now focused on possible miscarriages of justice toward men, rather than the actual injustices perpetrated on women. Dunc’s post at #5 is fairly prescient, despite Dunc consistently arguing that more should be done to educate and work within the existing rules and guidelines, this has been argued instead:

Yes, of course, it is completely impossible to express any concerns about the way in which rape is treated by the criminal justice system without being in favour of scrapping juries and the presumption of innocence, and just locking up all TEH POOR MENZ!!!1one!!eleventy!!! purely on the victim’s say-so.

Cylux (134); is that so surprising, with or without the nefarious patriarchy being at work? You won’t find many opponents to the idea that rape should be handled more sensitively or effectively, so there’s not much to discuss. The controversial bits are the ones that might impact on a fair trial, so they’re the bits that get discussed

137. Lisa Ansell

http://pervocracy.blogspot.com/2010/10/people-you-meet-when-you-write-about.html

THis post struck me as quite er…relevant. (Not just to this post, but to every single post have ever read that mentions the ‘R’ word…).

138. Lisa Ansell

And for what it’s worth- the idea of punishing a woman for retracting allegations about her husband, when we are well aware of the effects of domestic abuse- by jailing her- when it is clear that she is a victim of abuse- with the result that he kidnapped her child, and she now needs to file proceedings to get her child- absolutely abhorrent. The idea that she is ‘free’ when actually her ‘punishment’ has been reduced and she is still subject to punishment- disgusting on every level.

The usual defensive commenters with their ridiculous contortions of logic are standard when anyone writes about rape. Is part of the eason for our appalling record on dealing with it.

Lisa; Really? Do you want to match up some specific comments here with those stereotypes?

140. Lisa Ansell

I think people can read for themselves!Lol

141. Chaise Guevara

@ 134 Cylux

I think Dunc’s first post was not so much prescient as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Note that he introduced the “WHAT ABOUT THE MENZ” thing in the context of due process. If you mention a group of people who have a fair point to make, then straw-man them before they’ve even said anything, you can expect them to respond and defend themselves. It’s a bit like saying “now we’re going to hear from the pricks who think criminals should have more human rights than victims” and then acting like you’re some kind of wise seer when someone attacks that statement.

I don’t see the thing where people insist on talking about male rape victims as often as the due process thing, but I agree that one’s a case of a well-meaning but misplaced attempt to demand equality (I should put my cards on the table and point out that I mentioned male victims awhile up the thread, but only in response to someone who was moving the conversation towards a false male vs female debate, ie. a slanging match). And as I said before, the circumcision thing is pure idiocy.

@139 – Im glad raes such a funny topic for you Lisa. Your an absolute disgrace, how dare you use the l word on a thread about the r word.

Its people like you who keep us in the middle ages

143. Chaise Guevara

@ 141

I get the distinct feeling that Lisa posts that link on every thread that mentions rape along with the declaration that it’s “relevant” to the comments, regardless of whether she’s actually read them.

@136 – You forget “Ms I or a close friend has been raped in the past and now I know everything regarding every single rape past present or future whilst at the same time possesing the combined knowledge of what every man is thinking, and indeed what his real meaning is when his post is anyhting but a grovelling apology for what he and every single other man on the planet did to me or my close friend”

Note that he introduced the “WHAT ABOUT THE MENZ” thing in the context of due process. If you mention a group of people who have a fair point to make, then straw-man them before they’ve even said anything, you can expect them to respond and defend themselves.

Except that the concerns expressed re: due process were themselves straw-man arguments diverting the discussion from the concerns of women to the concerns of men. There is nothing in the OP to even suggest a desire to remove due process – it’s all about how victims are treated under cross-examination. Pretending that the OP implies a removal of due process is a classic WATM derail. Your continued harping about how unfair it is to point this out it is a meta-WATM derail. You’ve left the normal aleph-0 space of whataboutery for the aleph-1 hyperspace of meta-whataboutery.

Whining about the removal of due process when nobody is even suggesting the removal of due process is not “a fair point to make”.

146. Luis Enrique

cim

I’m don’t want to dismiss the importance of validating wrong attitudes, but at the same time I think it’s a bit intangible. Isn’t what matters more tangible:
1. how many women are being raped
2. how many rapists are getting convicted
And there’s a causal link I think, in that increasing 2. should reduce 1.
Now I’m not so stupid as to think the intangible cannot affect the tangible, but if creating a crime of lesser rape led to a big increase in 2. and consequent decrease in 1., wouldn’t that outweigh harm done by ‘validating’ attitudes? The worry, I presume, is that validating bad attitudes might lead to an increase in 1., and if so clearly that’d change things. But how plausible is that?

I’m not a veteran of these debates, so I’m very ready to be corrected. I get the impression that behind this disagreement lies the idea that on one side there are those who are concerned to raise rape awareness, change attitudes etc. and who have a strong (correctly so) view on how bad any form of rape is, and then it’s as if those who suggest the creation of a crime of lesser rape are trying to argue “oh, that sort of rape isn’t as bad as you’re making out”. That’s not where I’m coming from. I think you can hold exactly the same views about how serious all forms of rape are, and still think it potentially worthwhile to introduce two categories of rape for the purpose of raising conviction rates. I don’t see that ‘lesser rape’ would be regarded as a trivial crime at all. So what bad attitude would it validate? The attitude that lesser rape isn’t a very serious offense? I don’t think so. That some forms or rape are worse than others? Maybe so. Now, I know lots of people feel very strongly that, for reasons I don’t understand (as others have drawn parallels with different categories of murder) but even that attitude would be validated by introducing two categories of rape and it’s accepted that’s a bad idea, is it sufficiently bad to outweigh the gain of an increase in conviction rates?

147. Chaise Guevara

“Except that the concerns expressed re: due process were themselves straw-man arguments diverting the discussion from the concerns of women to the concerns of men.”

What concerns? You said it was “pre-emptive”. Who brought up due process? Not the OP, you: “it is completely impossible to express any concerns about the way in which rape is treated by the criminal justice system without being in favour of scrapping juries and the presumption of innocence, and just locking up all TEH POOR MENZ!!!”

So, according to you, any complaints about the idea of locking people up without a fair trial is whinging about the “poor menz” and evidence that the speaker doesn’t care about rape victims. What a lovely person you are. Later lying and saying that you do care about due process is a bit fair when you’ve already made it clear you don’t. And if you want me to stop talking about it and thus committing meta-WATM-whatever (which appears to be a code for “disagreeing with Dunc”), then stop straw-manning me.

Regarding the debate about innocent until proven guilty in rape cases. There does seem to be a general desire of feminists and some liberals to taking the view that discussion of men accused of rape being innocent until proven should be avoided as it implies that women who report rape are lying.
As a liberal I find it frustrating and odd that many of my kin would not suggest avoiding such discussion when talking about other crimes such as terrorism or youth violence.
Would they suggest that to believe Muslims accused of terrorist related offences are innocent until proven guilty is to condone terrorism? No!

Wait a minute, has this entire thread derailed due to an inability to recognise sarcasm?

Who brought up due process? Not the OP, you:

IanVisits and Dave, in the two comments immediately prior to my first comment.

What a lovely person you are. Later lying and saying that you do care about due process is a bit fair when you’ve already made it clear you don’t. … stop straw-manning me.

OK, that’s it, I quit – the irony is killing me. Feel free to keep digging, arsehole.

151. Chaise Guevara

@ 150

Oh, I see. IanVisit’s point that you shouldn’t call someone who was found not guilty of rape a “rapist” is WATMing, is it? Yeah, you LOVE due process. Go fuck yourself to you too.

Luis/145: Certainly increasing the number of convictions would decrease the number of rapes in general, because the vast majority of rapists are also serial rapists. Lisak and Miller 2002, for instance, suggests that the average number of rapes committed so far by an undetected rapist is around 6; Weinrott and Sayler 1991 suggests that the mean (and the variance is large) number of rapes committed by a convicted rapist is around ten times those charged for. Other studies give similar results.

What I don’t see is how you’d sensibly tier the crime in the first place, or why jury unwillingness to see it as a [serious] crime should be a justification to do so.

One of the things that’s become clear – have a look at David Lisak’s “The Undetected Rapist” fact sheet for instance – is that serial predatory rapists (the majority form of rapist) are fully aware of rape myths and select their victims based on this – isolating their victims over a period of time, giving them alcohol to reduce their ability to resist, picking victims with perceived lower credibility in the first place, and avoiding the use of physical force where possible to reduce the amount of persistent evidence.

They’re actually considerably more dangerous than the typical stranger rapists, because they’re more likely to commit more rapes before any get reported, less likely to be convicted if detected, more likely to be defended by their peers “Oh, X is a nice guy, he wouldn’t do that”, and so on. (Even scarier: this category includes around 5% of men at a conservative estimate)

So Tim W’s suggestion of making acquaintance rape a less serious crime than stranger rape is entirely backwards – it’d be like giving murder a lesser sentence than manslaughter. (And that wouldn’t be justifiable even if juries often had the wrong-headed idea that “well, if they planned it out, they must have had a good reason, so it seems harsh to imprison them for life” and so rarely found people guilty of murder)

If you’ve got a different approach to tiering than Tim W’s that you think would increase convictions then I’d be interested to hear it.

Actually, there is one tiering idea that I wouldn’t oppose outright, though I’d still be extremely uneasy about it: a crime with a lesser but still custodial maximum sentence that mirrored the definition of rape in sections 1-4 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 excluding sections 1c and 2 of that definition. (Personally I’d just like to see those two clauses scrapped, because I can’t see how under a sensible definition of “reasonable” they’d be needed … but as we’ve established juries don’t always have a sensible definition of reasonable)

153. Luis Enrique

cim

well you describe what a menace these serial predatory ‘acquaintance rapists’ are, which in my mind only increases the appeal of any change that would result in more of them being put away. You talk about getting things backwards – I think it would be getting things backwards to oppose a change that would result in more convictions of predatory rapists on the grounds that the lesser/greater distinction is inconsistent with your views on what is actually lesser/greater.

@150/Chaise: That’s only true in a very particular legal sense. The fact that X was raped by Y is not dependent on Y’s conviction in court. (Indeed, it remains true even if as with most rapes X never brings it to the attention of the justice system in the first place).

Certainly, having been acquitted, the justice system is required to treat Y as if they had not raped X, because that’s how trials (rightly!) work. Nevertheless that doesn’t automatically imply that X wasn’t raped or that X was raped by someone other than Y.

There’s further confusion from the clauses I mentioned in my recent reply to Luis – the colloquial definition of rape, the one that matters to the victims, and the one used in anti-rape campaigns – is sexual activity [for rape rather than sexual assault, a specific one] without the consent of the victim. However, there’s a third test in law: the [colloquial] rapist must not have had a “reasonable belief” in consent to become a [legal] rapist. Now, obviously, this can lead to the situation where someone is put through the psychological and physical trauma of being raped but no offence has been committed. I’m not entirely sure what to call the person responsible for causing this trauma other than a rapist.

Re: “what about the menz?”

This quip is used by the man hating wing of feminism to basically say “Fuck men they are all rapists, wife beaters and bastards and deserve absoloutley no rights”.

Luis/152: The problem is their prevalence. Lisak’s studies, and numerous others, suggest that around 5% of men fit the serial predator pattern. Possibly more, who knows.

We can’t, just as a matter of practicality, imprison them all. We’d have to reform our entire society solely around locking up rapists to run that many prisons.

We’ll prevent far more rapes by reducing their prevalence than by imprisoning the existing ones (and note: I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t imprison the rare ones we do manage to catch!). I’d therefore be worried about a change that would:
– send a further message to predators and potential predators that their crimes aren’t as serious
– send a further message to victims that their harm isn’t taken seriously if they’re not the “perfect victim” (which will discourage reporting, which will probably increase the technical attrition/conviction rates, admittedly, but in the wrong way)
– go directly against any educational messaging on consent, rape, and rape myths, which is the only way we’re going to get that 5% figure down to something more manageable, by saying that they’re “true”.

I may be misunderstanding what you’re suggesting – what sort of tiering would you suggest: which rapes would be viewed as the more serious sort.

cim; I think degree of familiarity between the victim and attacker is a red herring. The relevant factor is the degree of intent – somebody who sets out with premeditation to rape somebody is worse than somebody who fails to take sufficient care to be sure of consent.

That doesn’t make either of those things “okay”, any more than (as already mentioned) the manslaughter/murder distinction makes manslaughter acceptable (or makes the victim any less dead).

Jason/156: In practice, statistically speaking, because so few rapes are reported in the first place, and most rapes are committed by serial rapists, the vast majority of reported rapes will have been committed by serial rapists, and so any decent intent-based split should leave the vast majority of convictions on the higher side of it anyway. Of course, that does depend on where you place the proportion of serial rapists who don’t view what they’re doing as rape but as “seduction” or “being a man” or some such self-justifying redefinition. In practice they are rapists and intend to be; in their own minds they’re the “victim of a false accusation” because their internal values are so skewed. I think they’re clearly on the higher side of the split.

It then doesn’t seem worth splitting it in law: judges can use their discretion on sentencing anyway (and I suspect that many of the “mistake” ones, once they’ve realised what they did, plead guilty rather than making the jury decide anyway, which will tend to come with a much reduced sentence)

159. Luis Enrique

cim,

I starting to feel like I’m losing the thread. You are objecting to an idea to increase the conviction rate because you think there are so many rapists out there we’d run out of jail space? If that’s really a problem, how does that relate to the OP, which seems to want more rapists convicted.

(You reckon 1 in 20 men are “serial predators”? w.t.f? there’s not point in me disputing that in a blog comment, but I do not believe it unless these men are concentrated in a social strata I do not move in).

“We’ll prevent far more rapes by reducing their prevalence” – we’ll prevent rape by preventing rape? well yes but how?

Say there are 2 offenses. Sex without consent (which you & I and everyone here recognizes as rape) and ‘aggravated rape’ involving violence. I do not accept that this would:
– send a message to predators that their crimes aren’t as serious
– send a further message to victims that their harm isn’t taken seriously
– go directly against any educational messaging on consent, rape, and rape myths
I think absolutely every “message” sent can stay undiluted, every anti-rape campaigner, everyone can continue to say rape of all sorts is extremely serious, harm is taken seriously, and educators can keep educating about importance of consent and so on.

this whole debate is moot if it turns out the proposed reform would not result in increased rates of convictions. That’s the whole point. If it wouldn’t, then I’d be against it too. If it would, I can hardly believe you’d oppose it because you’re worried about diluting some ill defined notion of a “message” that you think is more important than putting rapists behind bars. Where do people get “messages” about rape from? from TV, from films, from school, from campaigns, from the institutions and public servants who deal with them if they are either victims or investigated as suspect … and by drawing inferences from the legal taxonomy of offenses. I don’t see that changes to this last one is would have the calamitous effect you seem to.

Luis/158: You are objecting to an idea to increase the conviction rate because you think there are so many rapists out there we’d run out of jail space?

Good grief, no! But the majority of the attrition between crime and imprisonment does not take place at the trial stage. There’s not much point in getting the conviction rate up from 54% to 75% if it causes a bigger drop in the reporting rate or in the attrition rates at the police/CPS stages. The tiering system might increase the conviction rate at trial – by giving rapists an opportunity to plead guilty to a lesser crime, if nothing else – but would also I think, at least as suggested by Tim W, cause a much greater decrease in the reporting and pre-trial attrition rates, causing fewer convictions overall. (I think a lot of the drop might be on the reporting side, too, which would have the nasty effect of making it look like the policy had worked)

161. Luis Enrique

cim

oh, I see. I hadn’t thought of that. Why do you think such a change would increase the quantity of cases that don’t even get to court?

Luis/158: (accidentally hit submit there… reply continued:)

You reckon 1 in 20 men are “serial predators”? w.t.f?

Yeah, it’s shockingly high at first glance. Have a look at the table on the second page of http://www.sexualassault.army.mil/files/RAPE_FACT_SHEET.pdf which gives prevalences resulting from various studies, and then the full text of the Lisak and Miller study is available at http://www.innovations.harvard.edu/cache/documents/1348/134851.pdf

Essentially, though, the repeated result of surveys, across multiple different groups of men, without much change for age, or race, or occupation, or anything else, is that between 5 and 15% of them, depending on exactly what behaviours you ask about, and provided you don’t actually put the word “rape” or “sexual assault” into the question, and provided it’s an anonymous survey, will admit to behaviours that in legal terms are one of “rape”, serious “sexual assault”, or the attempted variations, and the majority of those will admit to having done so multiple times.

5% of men as a figure for serial rapists should not be that surprising, though. You’ve seen the several surveys about attitudes to sex, rape and consent and the figures massively higher than that, in the 30-50% range, showing badly wrong attitudes.

You’ve also seen the figures that show that well over 5% of women (and a fairly large number of men) will be raped or seriously sexually assaulted, possibly several times, during their lives. Someone must be raping them, and to posit a figure for the prevalence of serial rapists in the male population much lower than 5% means that rather than being one of the most prolific rapists, infamous criminals such as Worboys were actually average or below average.

‘aggravated rape’ involving violence

That split makes a certain sort of sense, but of course if a rapist, in the course of committing a rape, also commits non-sexual violent crimes, we can charge and sentence for both already. It won’t show up on statistics because sentencing stats only record individuals for the most serious crime they were convicted of, but I’m fairly sure this is already done. (And certainly, if it’s not, no objections at all to it being done) I don’t see the need to split the crime of rape in two to do that.

163. Luis Enrique

cim

maybe I don’t hang out with enough shitbags, or some men I think are kind lovely monogamous individuals lead a dark secret life. anyway, you’re right about the implications of the data, and if I respect anything, it’s careful empirical work.

the fact we can charge violent rapists with extra crimes already may be true, but it doesn’t address the idea that juries empirically exhibit a reluctance to convict because (and this is the assumption all the foregoing is based on – and if it’s wrong, I should stress, all this is redundant and I’d chuck the idea out) they are reluctant to convict ‘acquaintance rapists’ of rape because they’re stuck on thinking rape means violent rape. This is about exploiting, or working with, irrationality, (hence the ‘validating’ concern) and giving them another category for which they find returning a guilty verdict easier – but the essence of the crime would be unchanged: rape. It’s a labeling trick, it doesn’t make sense, it ought not be necessary.

164. Chaise Guevara

@ 153 CIM

“That’s only true in a very particular legal sense. The fact that X was raped by Y is not dependent on Y’s conviction in court. (Indeed, it remains true even if as with most rapes X never brings it to the attention of the justice system in the first place).

Certainly, having been acquitted, the justice system is required to treat Y as if they had not raped X, because that’s how trials (rightly!) work. Nevertheless that doesn’t automatically imply that X wasn’t raped or that X was raped by someone other than Y.”

Oh, I know. I’m actually inclined to believe that the OP’s version of events is true (not sure why, exactly). The point I’m making is that as the guy was found not guilty, anyone with no personal experience of the case who refers to him as a rapist is showing horrible bias at the very least (and possibly committing libel to boot). Extrapolating from that, I’m trying to make it clear why it’s unhelpful to shout childish straw-man phrases IN FULL SHOUTY CAPS at people who point out that it’s not fair to presume his guilt.

I’m not saying that the woman described in the OP is lying, far from it. What I am saying is that it’s unreasonable to treat anyone who doesn’t instantly choose to believe her over the court, based on a single account here, as a knee-jerk misogynist who doesn’t care about rape victims.

165. Luis Enrique

cim I have to head off, I’ve enjoyed this discussion and have learnt from it.

Luis/163: It’s a labeling trick, it doesn’t make sense, it ought not be necessary.

Okay, I see where you’re coming from with this, but how would it work in law? We recognise crimes as being more or less serious based on the sentencing levels. You can’t give higher than a life sentence (which rape currently has). So you don’t have much flexibility to make this “aggravated rape” even more harshly sentenced, and I wouldn’t want to make the existing crime less harshly sentenced. You could fiddle with the sentencing guidelines, obviously, but you could again do that without splitting the crime.

I also don’t see how the existence of “aggravated rape” which might perhaps increase the conviction rate (and/or the sentence level) of a particular set of rapists would help achieve convictions for the other crime. There’s already no requirement in law for rape to include additional violence beyond that implied by it being a rape, so I don’t see how it would help with juries in the majority of crimes which don’t (or at least, not obviously) include additional violence.

they are reluctant to convict ‘acquaintance rapists’ of rape because they’re stuck on thinking rape means violent rape

The thing is, it’s that, and it’s the myths about drinking (30% think this implies at least partial responsibility by the victim) and flirting (34%) and revealing clothing (26%) and so on and so on (Amnesty International UK 2005 survey, but similar figures from many other UK surveys)

It’s the combination, not the lack of additional violence alone, that makes acquaintance rapes harder to convict [1]. Add in the fact that attitudes about “consent once, consent always” that people have (Havens survey, etc.), and that many rapes are carried out by current partners, and that makes it even more difficult.

[1] And unfortunately I don’t have data on how much harder to convict to hand. I’ll have a look for some.

I have to congratulate Dave @142, that has to be the most absolutely blinding demonstration of sanctimonious mendacity I’ve seen for a long time. Especially from someone who was completely ignorant, until this thread, that women’s sex lives and attire are routinely paraded before courtrooms in order to sway juries.

You’ve also seen the figures that show that well over 5% of women (and a fairly large number of men) will be raped or seriously sexually assaulted, possibly several times, during their lives.

And so it goes on. This figure was debunked further up the thread, but nothing seems to penetrate some particularly dense skulls.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    She is free now, but the justice system still fails raped women http://bit.ly/eliFz8

  2. Siren of Brixton

    RT @libcon: She is free now, but the justice system still fails raped women http://bit.ly/eliFz8

  3. Angelique Mulholland

    The justice system still fails raped women | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/d9EjiBG via @libcon

  4. Siobhan Schwartzberg

    RT @libcon: She is free now, but the justice system still fails raped women http://bit.ly/eliFz8

  5. Pucci Dellanno

    RT @libcon: She is free now, but the justice system still fails raped women http://bit.ly/eliFz8

  6. czol

    Warning: Mansplaining-a-go-go in comments. RT @libcon: She is free now, but the justice system still fails raped women http://bit.ly/eliFz8

  7. sianushka

    http://liberalconspiracy.org/2010/11/24/she-is-free-now-but-the-justice-system-still-fails-raped-women/ #endvawg stop assuming women lie

  8. Hannah M

    RT @libcon: She is free now, but the justice system still fails raped women http://bit.ly/eliFz8

  9. earwicga

    RT @libcon She is free now, but the justice system still fails raped women http://t.co/rbUnxyU < The comments btl are a disgrace





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