Anonymity for rape defendants mostly helps one group: rapists


by Sian Norris    
7:17 pm - February 17th 2013

      Share on Tumblr

Anonymity for rape defendants is a bad idea that benefits one key group of people – rapists.

It was a bad idea in 1975, when it was how rape cases were conducted. In 1975, lest we forget, men still had the legal right to rape their wives (until 1990). It was a bad idea in 2010 when the new coalition government tried to bring it back into law. And it will be a bad idea now, as the Chair of the Bar Council in England argues for it again.

Anonymity for rape defendants, and only for rape defendants, is a policy based on the belief that women routinely and maliciously lie about rape in a way that no other crime gets lied about. But this belief is entirely false.

The idea is justified by its supporters because of the stigma of a rape accusation. But if that was really the case, then anonymity would apply to all violent crime. There is stigma attached to an accusation of murder. No crime carries more stigma than child abuse. Yet the only reason rape is singled out is because of this pernicious belief that women are just making it up in order to hurt men.

False accusations of rape make up about 3% of reported rapes. This number is no more than false accusations of any other crime.

The evidence is there to prove that naming rape defendants is a sensible policy that encourages reporting and that leads to convictions. When a prolific rapist is named, like John Worboys, it helps women who have been attacked by him feel confident to come forward. Once his identity was known, around 70 women came forward reporting attacks – reports that helped convict him.

Naming Worboys meant that he was finally, after years of terrorising women, convicted. Otherwise the police might still be dismissing reports – which they did at the time.

We cannot propose or make laws based on women-hating myths. We’re in a real crisis of violence against women in this country. There are 500,000 sexual assaults every year including 69,000 women raped and yet there are only 1070 convictions. Only 2910 reported.

This is the time to be doing everything we can to create an environment where women and girls feel confident reporting rape to the police – confident that they will be listened to, believed and that their rapist will go to jail.

Rape Crisis Helpline: 0808 802 9999
National Domestic Abuse Helpline: 0808 2000 247


A longer version of this post is here.

    Share on Tumblr   submit to reddit  


About the author
Sian Norris is an occasional contributor. She is a Bristol based writer who likes to write short stories and muse on feminist debates.
· Other posts by


Story Filed Under: Blog ,Crime ,Feminism


Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.


Reader comments


1. Natacha Kennedy

We had this argument just after the election and it was obverwhelmingly concluded in favour of the status quo. This is typical of sexual politics; it happens all the time; the anti-abortionists are defeated but come back to try again and again and again.

Why is it that the politics of women’s bodies is neverending? Why can’t the right-wing pro-rape, anti abortion, anti-feminist misogynists be made to understand once-and for all that we don’t want rapist anonymity, no abortions and we do want women to have control of their own bodies and effective protection from rape and other forms of male violence?

Why is it that the politics of women’s bodies is neverending? Why can’t the right-wing pro-rape, anti abortion, anti-feminist misogynists be made to understand once-and for all that we don’t want rapist anonymity, no abortions and we do want women to have control of their own bodies and effective protection from rape and other forms of male violence?

Because women’s bodies are vital to the reproduction of labour.

“Anonymity for rape defendants, and only for rape defendants, is a policy based on the belief that women routinely and maliciously lie about rape in a way that no other crime gets lied about.”

No, it’s based on *exactly the opposite*. People accused of sexual offences are, outside of the legal system, assumed to be guilty. No smoke without fire, and all that.

“Why can’t the right-wing pro-rape, anti abortion, anti-feminist misogynists”

Oh just grow up and start acting like a human being, not a fanatic. No one is pro-rape. Also to call all people who disagree with your views misogynists is just bullying. I don’t agree with the Right, but they’re not monsters – why can’t you accept that?

This is a combination of special pleading and hysteria.

The reason why I believe those accused (and, it must be emphasised, the key word here is accused) of sexual offences (it’s not just rape) should have anonymity until and unless convicted is because – in a society where hysteria and prurience are the watchwords of the media and various campaign groups alike – accusation of sex offences stick like glue even to those who have never been prosecuted, or who have been acquitted after a proper trial. This is far more the case than for, say, homicide or burglary. The “no smoke without fire” brigade will have their way, and the life of someone (usually, but not invariably, a man) who has been accused but not convicted is quite often ruined by them.

If you want a system where an accusation can be treated – de facto if not de jure – as having a similar impact on the accused as an actual conviction ever afterwards, then go ahead. But give up any pretense you may have of being interested in anything called ‘justice’.

I don’t believe anonymity is based on a suspicion that women lie about rape. It is, rather, on the belief that wrongful accusations of rape seriously affect reputations. It is treated as a special case because rape is taken very seriously by the authorities and the general public. Someone accused of rape is not a rapist. Someone convicted of rape is. And I would advocate prosecution to the full extent of the law, plus castration, stoning and chemical modification at the very least. ps I am not right-wing.

False accusations of rape make up about 3% of reported rapes. This number is no more than false accusations of any other crime.

Given the extreme difficulty of getting accurate figures, I doubt if anyone knows what %age of rape accuations or accusations in general are made up.

Though I do expect the 3% figure was made up.

The evidence is there to prove that naming rape defendants is a sensible policy that encourages reporting and that leads to convictions. When a prolific rapist is named, like John Worboys, it helps women who have been attacked by him feel confident to come forward. Once his identity was known, around 70 women came forward reporting attacks – reports that helped convict him.

And why couldn’t the 70 women have come forward after John Worboys was convicted? The other reports did not help convict him, they only ensured that his sentence was a long one.

Only 14 women testified and he was only charged with 23 crimes. It only took the evidence of three women for the police to realize that he was a serial rapist. And why didn’t they jump at the conclusion beforehand? Because stranger rape is quite rare compared to rape by an assailant known to the victim.

Sorry, your argument is weak. If women feel that they can’t come forward and have to wait for others to go first then look at what stops them offering evidence, don’t say that it requires names to be published first. Anyway, how is a rape victim going to know the name of their rapist unless they know them.

Look at how police use the evidence, look at the CPS. They have changed dramatically in their handling of rape cases in recent years. They know believe the woman immediately and presume that she is a victim before checking the evidence.

The fact is that some women who cry, “Rape!” are lying, as we can see from this:

A woman who cried rape to cover up cheating on her partner with a taxi driver has been jailed for two years after the infidelity was exposed.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/9808081/Woman-jailed-for-crying-rape-to-cover-up-cheating-on-her-husband.html#

Can anyone explain to me how the conviction rate for rape is demonstrably wrong? What, exactly, would be the correct rate? And why, exactly?

That a woman has had a most unpleasant experience of this kind, the far greater likelihood of which is a direct consequence of the unquestionable Sexual Revolution, does not necessarily mean that she has experienced the offence of rape as the law defines it. Either that, or the real scandal is that there are so few prosecutions for what is clearly very widespread perjury, attempting to pervert the course of justice, and making false statements to the police. Not that those two possibilities are mutually exclusive.

Far from abrogating in any way the principle of corroboration in Scots Law, that principle needs instead to be extended throughout the United Kingdom. Just as there must be no reversal of the burden of proof or abolition of the right to conduct one’s own defence in rape cases, changes frequently demanded by certain campaigners, so there must be no extension of anonymity to adult defendants. Rather, there should be no anonymity for adult accusers, either. We either have an open system of justice, or we do not.

The specific offence of rape only serves to keep on the streets people who should certainly be taken out of circulation. Instead, we need to replace the offences of rape, serious sexual assault and indecent assault with an aggravating circumstance to the ordinary categories of assault, enabling the maximum, and therefore also the minimum, sentences to be doubled, since every offence should carry a minimum sentence of one third of its maximum sentence, or 15 years for life.

That way, those poor women with broken bones and worse, whose assailants were never convicted of anything, really would have received justice.

you see, comment 1 is a big part of the problem. If your allow people to just tar huge groups as pro rape, anti feminist mysoginists etc, then why WOULD’NT people worry about mallicious alligations?

“Anonymity for rape defendants is a bad idea that benefits one key group of people – rapists.”

Given that only acquitted rape defendants would retain anonymity, this is plainly false.

13. Robin Levett

@Sian and Natacha OP & #1:

Uniquely, alleged victims of rape and most other sexual offences are granted lifelong anonymity – even when their allegations are shown to be false (eg the accuser of Warren Blackwell). What is the rationale for this if it not that rape and other sexual offences carry a stigma that no other crime carries?

For what it’s worth – the Chair of the Bar Council, Maura McGowan QC (whom you did not name), is a very experienced criminal barrister; as is John Cooper QC, who opposes the proposal. Can we forget the “anti-feminist, misogynist” rhetoric?

The original reason for granting anonymity to rape victims was that the social stigma attached to being raped was such that the life – and especially the marriage prospects – of the woman would otherwise be destroyed. Today, the argument isn’t that, but that anonymity makes it easier to report a heavily unreported crime.

Most women today are not stained in the public mind for being victims of rape; and reactions among friends, colleagues and neighbours are likely to be ones of sympathy and empathy. For the man the public shame of being accused of rape is huge, a shame which is widened and made eternal by the internet.

My argument is: if there is a case for anonymity for rape victims, then there is an equally strong case for the defendant.

@ 7

A false accusation of rape is a very serious crime and should be and is treated as such. However, just as with any crime, anyone accused of making a false accusation is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

What this means is that we do have statistics to tell us how prevalent false accusations of rape are because they are included in crime statistics such as the British Crime Survey and in conviction figures and those statistics tell us it is about 3%.

16. Robin Levett

@Sian #15:

What this means is that we do have statistics to tell us how prevalent false accusations of rape are because they are included in crime statistics such as the British Crime Survey and in conviction figures and those statistics tell us it is about 3%.

What is meant by “false accusations of rape” in these statistics? My recollection from the last go-around is that that was specifically and only from a study considering the reasons why prosecutions were dropped. The stat is of the cases where the police classified the reason for not proceeding as “false report”; which is where the alleged victim actually said it was false, or the police had evidence from the get-go that it was false.

That excludes all those cases where the woman is lying, doesn’t admit it, and there wasn’t immediate evidence to show her account wasn’t truthful. As I said when this came up:

It all depends what you’re going to do with the classification. sian was trying to make a general point with the statistic; the implication was, and seemed to be intended to be, that 95-97% of the time, where a woman reported having been raped, she had genuinely been raped. Whatever the actual figure – and I don;t know it – the study you mention doesn’t support that claim. It doesn’t even purport to support that claim.

http://liberalconspiracy.org/2011/07/13/the-perfect-victim-theory-of-rape-and-how-its-reported/#comment-290738

Anonymity for rape defendants, and only for rape defendants, is a policy based on the belief that women routinely and maliciously lie about rape in a way that no other crime gets lied about.

No, it isn’t – that’s a straw man argument.

The idea is justified by its supporters because of the stigma of a rape accusation. But if that was really the case, then anonymity would apply to all violent crime.

No, it wouldn’t.

There is stigma attached to an accusation of murder. No crime carries more stigma than child abuse.

Are those proposing anonymity for people accused of rape really opposing anonymyty for those accused of child abuse or are you making that up?

Yet the only reason rape is singled out is because of this pernicious belief that women are just making it up in order to hurt men.

Repeating a straw man argument doesn’t make it less of a straw man.

False accusations of rape make up about 3% of reported rapes. This number is no more than false accusations of any other crime.

Yet people found innocent of bank robberies that didn’t happen aren’t burned out of their homes. Go figure.

The naming of those accused of rape serves one purpose only: to punish those found innocent.

Interesting quote from leading human rights QC on this issue:

“Human rights barrister John Cooper added: “Anonymity for sex crime victims is unworkable. Why should somebody who is accused of a sex crime receive anonymity? Why don’t we broaden that out to include people who are accused of beating children or murdering children?

“There’s no distinguishing case for sex crimes to be singled out, it has to be anonymity for all or anonymity for none.”"

And from Rape Crisis:

“Ms Saward said: “When you have anonymity for a rapist or potential rapist you protect him, you make him what people believe to be a safe person to be with potentially.

“I don’t think that we can say that it is the slightest bit fair to put people in danger knowing they might be a risk to people, let them make their own choice.

“Many of these people who are out there committing rape are serial rapists and sometimes people feel there isn’t enough evidence to go forward on my case alone, but actually when lots of people come forward you begin to build up a very big picture.

“But when you have anonymity for that rapist – or potential rapist – you protect him.”

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/sex-case-defendants-should-not-be-named-says-senior-lawyer-8498357.html

19. Robin Levett

@sian #18:

There’s no distinguishing case for sex crimes to be singled out, it has to be anonymity for all or anonymity for none

Well, there goes anonymity for alleged rape victims, then… It is peculiarly one-eyed to defend victim anonymity on the ground that the crime carries such a unique stigma that anonymity is required to persuade victims to come forward, and then attack defendant anonymity on the basis that all crimes are alike.

Having said that; I think there probably is a case to be made for giving anonymity to those accused of child abuse. They and those accused of sex crime are all in the same boat; accused of crimes to which a very high degree of stigma rightly attaches, by alleged victims entitled to anonymity.

Ms Saward said: “When you have anonymity for a rapist or potential rapist you protect him, you make him what people believe to be a safe person to be with potentially.

“I don’t think that we can say that it is the slightest bit fair to put people in danger knowing they might be a risk to people, let them make their own choice.

Which being translated means; anyone accused of rape is to be treated as being as dangerous as a rapist. It would be unfair to treat them in any other way.

@20 he’s talking about perpetrators of crime, not victims.

You know what happens when you name rape victims? The woman who Ched Evans raped was forced to leave her home because she was bombarded with death rates. She was raped, and then she was threatened because she was raped. It was horrific.

Nothing is gained by naming victims except giving nasty people the opportunity to victimise them further. Naming defendants on the other hand helps to convict serial rapists.

Sorry, i meant @19 with that last comment, wasn’t responding to myself!

“he’s talking about perpetrators of crime”

No, he’s talking about alleged perpetrators. Those presumed innocent. Your entire argument seems to be based on ignoring this fundamental distinction.

> Can anyone explain to me how the conviction rate for rape is demonstrably wrong? What, exactly, would be the correct rate? And why, exactly?

My understanding is that the conviction rate relative to prosecutions is, in itself, pretty satisfactory. It hovers around the 60% mark: and since the CPS’ job is to prosecute cases with a 50%+ chance of conviction, 60% is pretty good. Any higher, and you’d have to conclude that they were failing to prosecute cases that would have had a good chance of conviction. (The conviction rate for murder, FWIW, is about the same.)

The problem is that only about 10% of reported rapes are prosecuted – and studies suggest that only a minority of rapes are even reported. This raises the question: are those other 90% really unconvictable, and if so, why? It’s clearly not because they’re all malicious lies. So is it just a question of evidence – or is it to do with jury attitudes and other cultural factors operating against the accuser? This is the issue that needs to be addressed to get to the bottom of the low prosecution rate.

@22 You say ‘my argument’ as if this originates with me. But it’s not my argument, it’s how the law currently stands, and why the law was changed in 1976 and not changed in 2010.

@24 – Hi Sian, small correction: I think that anonymity for rape defendants was brought in 1976 and abolished in 1988, according to this 2010 article by Vera Baird that you posted on twitter recently (which also very thoroughly goes through the considered reasons why it was abolished then and why proposals to return to it have been rejected since):
http://www.progressonline.org.uk/2010/06/01/anonymity-for-rape-defendants/

26. Robin Levett

@sian #20:

@20 he’s talking about perpetrators of crime, not victims.

I was well aware of that; but the logic applies to both alleged victims and alleged perpetrators – or to neither.

You know what happens when you name rape victims? The woman who Ched Evans raped was forced to leave her home because she was bombarded with death rates. She was raped, and then she was threatened because she was raped. It was horrific.

I’m not arguing against victim anonymity; I am arguing that the arguments in favour of victim anonymity also apply in favour of defendant anonymity.

Naming defendants on the other hand helps to convict serial rapists.

How many? We know that the vast majority of rapes are not stranger rapes; the argument that increased publicity encourages other victims to come forward simply doesn’t apply to any of that majority. Indeed, naming the defendant in such cases pretty much identifies the victim as well, certainly to those who actually know him.

You can name one stranger rape case (Worboys) where naming him brought forward other victims; but how many of those were false claims? We know that 70 women came forward, but he was only charged with 1 rape.

But how many other serial rapists have been caught and convicted by publishing their identity, as compared with the number of those acquitted of rape who have lost their job, marriage and good name as a result of publicity?

@25 gah that’s why i shouldn’t type in a hurry :-)

How many? We know that the vast majority of rapes are not stranger rapes; the argument that increased publicity encourages other victims to come forward simply doesn’t apply to any of that majority. Indeed, naming the defendant in such cases pretty much identifies the victim as well, certainly to those who actually know him.

Especially when a man is accused of rsping his wife – which is far more common than seriel-rape of strangers.

“Human rights barrister John Cooper added: “Anonymity for sex crime victims is unworkable. Why should somebody who is accused of a sex crime receive anonymity? Why don’t we broaden that out to include people who are accused of beating children or murdering children?

Jeez! This from a Lawyer?

The Data Protection Act (my professional stomping ground) already provides a clear expectation of confidentiality in these cases: Schedules 2 and 3 of the DPA (the “conditions for processing”)refer.

@29 – in what way does it? Genuine question. Because if the current policy is to name suspects, how does that correlate with the DPA’s expectation of confidentiality? Does it mean confidentiality of victims rather than defendants? I’m not very familiar with the ins and outs of the DPA i’m afraid so be interesting to understand more.

31. Simon Whitten

There’s a lot of whataboutery in the above article. What about accused murderers? They don’t get anonymity, etc. Maybe they should, but that’s not the issue that’s been raised.

What it comes down to is that the author is arguing for innocent people to be named and forever carry the stigma of being associated with a rape a court has acquitted them of. We’ve seen how much damage such an accusation can do to somebody’s reputation even when they are not convicted. And we are talking about victimising innocent people, as the guilty would still be named.

The author suggests that those standing up for the rights of the accused are doing so because there is a widespread assumption in society that alleged rape victims are likely lying. On the contrary, many men are ruined by an accusation regardless of whether there is enough evidence for a conviction. Consider the case of Dominique Strauss-Kahn who is often targeted by activists on the presumption that he is guilty, just because he has been accused.

The author cites in support of her argument the claim that only 3% of reported rapes are false accusations. This is an irrelevant statistic. The percentage of accused who are acquitted is considerably higher and where the evidence does not exist for a conviction a person should not be penalised by having their name dragged through the mud.

The title of this article is shamelessly dishonest: the group of people it mostly helps are those wrongly accused.

This raises the question: are those other 90% really unconvictable, and if so, why? It’s clearly not because they’re all malicious lies. So is it just a question of evidence – or is it to do with jury attitudes and other cultural factors operating against the accuser? This is the issue that needs to be addressed to get to the bottom of the low prosecution rate.

There has been some discussion and research into this, including: A gap or a chasm? Attrition in reported rape cases and the Stern review of rape reporting.

To answer your question, the CPS will prosecute when they believe there is a reasonable chance of conviction, as you said; other factors include but aren’t limited to victim attitudes, police attitudes, and jury / cultural attitudes. Recall that significant proportions of the public continue to believe that victim behaviour such as wearing a short skirt or accepting a drink makes them partly responsible.

33. Chaise Guevara

“But when you have anonymity for that rapist – or potential rapist – you protect him.”

Yes, because God forbid that the falsely accused should be protected from lynch mobs. Or the guilty for that matter, but especially the innocent.

It’s telling that the person you quote divides accusees into “rapists” and “potential rapists”, too. Surely they’re either all potential rapists, or they’re rapists and people who have been falsely accused.

TBH, the whole article seems to be written on the assumption that accusation is proof, and that courts are an unreasonable block standing between the guilty and their punishment – the kind of attitude that creates a need for anonymity, in fact. I totally get that this issue makes people more angry than most, it’s completely understandable. And I don’t know where I stand on anonymity. But the answer is not to take it out on the falsely accused, who are among the victims.

But when you have anonymity for that rapist – or potential rapist – you protect him.

What’s a ‘potential rapist’ – a man?

@34 “What’s a ‘potential rapist’ – a man?”

It’s very obvious what is meant, in the context of the discussion: somebody who has been charged with rape but not yet convicted.

It isn’t obvious because it is atypical English and literally means something different from ‘suspect’. In the context one would expect ‘suspected rapist’ or, better yet, ‘person suspected of rape’. Those two phrases are conventional / typical; why use ‘potential rapist’ instead?

@ 36 – well I can’t answer for Sian, but replying to comments is often done in a rushed and hurried way, as can b seen from many comments above. The meaning can easily be worked out.

Chaise Guevara @ 33 “TBH, the whole article seems to be written on the assumption that accusation is proof, and that courts are an unreasonable block standing between the guilty and their punishment”

That’s an utterly disingenuous reading of the post.

It is frustrating that many commenters do no more than state a belief that people charged with rape suffer ongoing reputational harm (even after trial and acquittal) that is significantly different from that experienced by people charged with other crimes:

Jason W @ 3 “People accused of sexual offences are, outside of the legal system, assumed to be guilty. No smoke without fire, and all that.”

The Judge @ 3 “accusation of sex offences stick like glue even to those who have never been prosecuted, or who have been acquitted after a proper trial. This is far more the case than for, say, homicide or burglary. “

Jim Hutchon @ 6 “I don’t believe anonymity is based on a suspicion that women lie about rape. It is, rather, on the belief that wrongful accusations of rape seriously affect reputations.”

All that these comments serve to do is amply demonstrate the perception that people accused of rape are treated worse (by who?) than other defendants, while telling us nothing about how accurate those perceptions are. (Phil Hunt @ 7 even decides, without bothering to click the link provided or even to google, that the false complaint figure of 3% is probably made up!).

Robin Levett @ “But how many other serial rapists have been caught and convicted by publishing their identity, as compared with the number of those acquitted of rape who have lost their job, marriage and good name as a result of publicity?”

Well, what is that number? Being prosecuted for any crime is bound to disrupt the defendant’s personal and professional life in multiple ways. If there is research that demonstrates that there is a significant difference in outcomes for rape defendants as opposed to other defendants I would certainly be interested to hear about it. I am sure that it would be valuable in ensuring that people who have been through the criminal justice system are better supported in returning to their ordinary lives, as well as providing the groundwork for a more informed discussion of this issue! In the meantime I would point out that it is not hard to think of of several famous men who have been publicly accused of rape and even convicted who have managed to continue to enjoy professional success despite that – for example, Mike Tyson and Roman Polanski.

Sian has provided a useful account of the reasons why anonymity for rape defendants was abolished and why when it has been proposed since then it has been rejected, and I imagine that governments and judicial authorities would have taken all the available evidence into account when weighing this issue. If there was a compelling reason to make an exception and give rape defendants anonymity and not any other defendants then the evidence would be there. Vera Baird covered these considerations comprehensively in this 2010 article that I already linked to above:
http://www.progressonline.org.uk/2010/06/01/anonymity-for-rape-defendants/

Robin Levett @ 26: “the arguments in favour of victim anonymity also apply in favour of defendant anonymity”

This completely fails to explain how and why the arguments are equivalent. Moreover, to see an equivalence between complainant and defendant is precisely the kind of prejudiced attitude that is the problem here. Victims of any crime are not the people on trial, but victims of rape are frequently talked about as if they should be. When over and over again discussion about the problem of rape is derailed by discussion about false rape complaints, when it has already been established that false complaints are no higher than for other kinds of crime, it’s clear that there is a great deal of reluctance to grant rape victims the basic good faith that is extended to victims of any other kind of crime. The prevalent tendency to doubt the credibility of a rape complainant puts them at a disadvantage right from the start when they decide to report the rape and it dogs them throughout the judicial system.

What we know about rape is that only around 10% of rapes are ever reported. We know this because surveys that ask people about experience of crime, as the annual British Crime Survey does, report vastly more incidents of rape compared to the number of rapes reported to the police in the same period. Another way to find this out would be to survey rape survivors who access support from Rape Crisis centres, and find out how many reported to the police, and the factors that deter survivors from reporting. We know that many survivors wait years before feeling able to disclose to anyone that they were raped. So the situation is that the perpetrators of the vast majority of rapes are simply getting away with it, which is extremely concerning.

Starting points for research about rape:
http://www.informationisbeautiful.net/visualizations/rape-a-lack-of-conviction/
http://www.rapecrisis.org.uk/Statistics2.php
http://www.rapecrisis.org.uk/mythsampfacts2.php

A lot of research on the investigation and prosecution of rape and other sexual assault has been carried out, and systemic failings have been found at all levels, that in all too many cases the police and prosecution have failed to properly investigate and build cases. Hopefully as a result of this, improvements are being made. As has already been pointed out, examples of such research carried out for the Home Office are the Stern Review, and the 2005 report A Gap or a Chasm: Attrition in Reported Rape Cases, which can be read here http://library.npia.police.uk/docs/hors/hors293.pdf, particularly shows the kinds of problematic attitudes that are obstacles to improving the prosecution of rape.

“That’s an utterly disingenuous reading of the post.”

No unfortunately it isn’t, that’s very much how this way of thinking appears to many men, me included. It is an article of faith amongst feminists that the conviction rate for rape is too low and that something must be done to change that. Most of would probably tend to agree but the something that must be done all to often seems to be that the standards of proof required should be lowered, few feminists will actually say this outright but the implication is pretty clear. That’s how we get to the misrepresentation of anonymity for defendants being about disbelieving the victim, the default assumption is always that the legal processes are allowing rapists to escape justice and that therefore any additional protection for the accused is unwarranted. It is I’m afraid a short step from that way of thinking to the removal of the assumption of innocence.

I think the argument about “more victims coming forward” is actually quite a powerful and persuasive one.

It’s just a shame that it gets buried in the usual spasms of hyperbole which are characteristic of this author.

This, for example:

“is a policy based on the belief that women routinely and maliciously lie about rape in a way that no other crime gets lied about”

is simply invention, pure and simple.

@ 36 – well I can’t answer for Sian, but replying to comments is often done in a rushed and hurried way,

It wasn’t Sian who used the phrase ‘potential rapist’, it was Jill Saward (as quoted).

@40 ah ok, but then why are people quibbling about it here then? Go and ask Jill Saward what she meant.

This article is good & informative on why anonymity for victims is not the same as anonymity for defendants http://gu.com/p/3dph4/tw

44. Robin Levett

@Maria S #41:

@40 ah ok, but then why are people quibbling about it here then? Go and ask Jill Saward what she meant.

Because Sian chose to quote it, perhaps?

Sianushka (@42), I must disagree. It seems to be muddying the waters with appeals to emotion.

The treatment of the women named in the article is shameful, but, with the best will in world what do these cases have to do with rape defendants being given anonymity?

I hope that they get the justice that they deserve, but their attackers were saved conviction by the possible incompetence and vindictiveness of the police, not because they granted anonymity by the law.

(Also, the link at the bottom to your blog is borked)

MariaS, perhaps it is your comments that are “done in a rushed and hurried way”.

Many of those here who are saying alleged rapists must be named before trials regardless of trial outcomes aren’t facing up to the reality that some women lie about being raped.

It is not too difficult to dig out reports of cases where women have been convicted of making false rape claims. Here is another:
http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/2012/07/06/young-mum-emma-jones-jailed-for-three-years-after-false-rape-claim-91466-31342379/

Sian do you think defendants in murder trials should get anonymity?

Reality check: murder victims don’t generally go along to local police stations and claim to have been murdered.

“I think the argument about “more victims coming forward” is actually quite a powerful and persuasive one.”

It’s the only one really. It depends on the evidence but there may be a case for saying that anonymity could be lifted where the accused was alleged to be a serial offender, but this argument presumably would only apply to a small minority of defendants.

Bob B, you seem peculiarly concerned with making sure we know some rape accusations are made in bad faith.

Given that this is stated in the blog post I am not sure why. Do you think it is more common than assumed?

Bob B, you seem peculiarly concern with making sure we all know that some rape accusation are made in bad faith.

Given that this is stated in the blog post, I am not sure why. Do you think it happens more frequently than commonly assumed?

Evert: “Given that this is stated in the blog post, I am not sure why. Do you think it happens more frequently than commonly assumed?”

I’m simply remaking the same plea as the chairman of the Bar Council because an especially strong stigma attaches to those accused of rape regardless of whether the allegation is true or false.

Rapists should be given anonymity until they are convicted, the head of the Bar Council said, as she warned reputations of innocent defendants were being destroyed.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/9875761/Alleged-rapists-should-be-given-anonymity-head-of-Bar-Council-says.html

We need to recognise the number of recent convictions for false rape claims amd consider whether that is a factor in the low conviction rates for rape.

On reading case reports, binge drinking and inebriation turn out to be frequent factors conducive to rape claims so it seems rather odd to an observing bystander of this debate as to why more emphasis isn’t put on warnings about the potential hazards of binge drinking – especially since Britain reportedly ranks high in the European binge drinking league table.

54. Chaise Guevara

@ 37 MariaS

“That’s an utterly disingenuous reading of the post.”

You haven’t said why you think that, which isn’t very helpful. I will admit that my view is probably being coloured by the ridiculous headline, which in all fairness Sian probably didn’t write. But just look at the third paragraph. It’s ridiculous and paranoid. People aren’t arguing that suspects should get anonymity because most women who claim to have been raped are liars; they’re arguing that a huge amount of punishment is dealt to the suspect before they’re tried, and after they’re found innocent, through reputational damage alone.

I’ve been there first-hand when this happened. It didn’t even happen to the guy falsely accused, it happened to one of his family members. Only quick thinking stopped him, me, and probably the two women with us being beaten up over a false claim. Because a certain amount of people are stupid and vicious. Like I said, I don’t know whether I favour anonymity. There are arguments against it. But equivocating between rapists and people falsely accused of rape is not one of them. Sian’s comments, overall, aren’t that bad, but she’s quoting some terrifying people as backup.

55. Chaise Guevara

@ MariaS

” ah ok, but then why are people quibbling about it here then? Go and ask Jill Saward what she meant.”

Because she quoted it with what appeared to be approval. If she comes on here and says otherwise, fair enough.

Bob B, I am not challenging the truthfulness of your claim (that some accusations are made in bad faith)

I just find it curious that you’ve popped up twice now to state a case that no one is denying.

Evert: “I just find it curious that you’ve popped up twice now to state a case that no one is denying.”

My repetition is because false rape claims are arguably one of the main reason for proposing the anonomity of those accused of rape prior to conviction as well as a likely factor in the low conviction rate for rape.

For all that, the number of false rape claims seems to be ignored or downplayed by those rejecting the plea of the chairman of the Bar Council and I was wondering why that is when it is very easy to dig out case reports of false rape claims.

In short, why put the emphasis on insisting on naming those accused of rape rather than inquiring as to the numbers of, and motives for false rape claims or pleas to reduce the factors contributing to rape – whether true or fabricated – such as binge drinking?

58. Chaise Guevara

@ 56 Evert

“I just find it curious that you’ve popped up twice now to state a case that no one is denying.”

Bob B has an ideosyncratic M.O. When he wants to imply something that he doesn’t have the guts to say outright, he posts anecdote after anecdote trying to push other people in that direction. He doesn’t understand that cherrypicked examples are not indicative of the wider trend.

Normally he’s trying to say-without-saying that some religious or racial group he dislikes is full of criminals. In this case he probably wants to convince you that false accusations are far more common than they actually are.

Women Against Rape have spoken out about the sentences for women convicted of making false rape claims:

“Lisa Longstaff, of Women Against Rape, said the sentence [of 2 years for a false rape accusation] was ‘outrageous’ and warned the judges comments risked putting women off reporting rapes.”
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/6468036/Prison-inevitable-for-false-rape-claims.html

As Stalin reportedly said: “It is better that ten innocent men suffer than one guilty man escape” …

60. Daniel Factor

Women Against Rape oppose prosecuting women who make false rape (or accused of making false rape claims)claims because they say it will deter victims of rape reporting it to the police.
That’s like arguing that if I lie in court to a jury that someone I don’t like physically assaulted me prosecuting me for perverting the course of justice would deter people who’ve been assaulted from reporting it.

False accusations are a relatively minor factor. Let’s not concentrate too much on those. It is distracting from the principle under discussion.

It’s interesting that the OP mentions Worboys because the case doesn’t suggest to me what the OP says it suggests. To me it suggests the police should have taken the victim’s account seriously and done their jobs properly, much more than ‘the suspect should not have anonymity.’ The linked to article says as much. Ditto the IPCC investigation:

http://www.ipcc.gov.uk/Documents/investigation_commissioner_reports/worboys_commissioners_report.pdf

The first point to make is, if they had done their jobs properly in the first instance, he might not have been free to continue to attack other women – anonymity was irrelevant in that sense. They knew who the guy was – they interviewed him but didn’t search his cab or his home, they assumed a black cab driver would never do such a thing, etc.

The second point to make is, they didn’t need to name him and show his photo in the press etc to seek other victims. What they could have done is plead for information relating to any attacks on women by black cab drivers in the suspect’s range, then they could have shown the complainants a series of photos or set up an identity parade to see if any complainants would identify Worboys as their attacker. Surely information resulting from that kind of activity would be more valuable than holding up a photo of Worboys and asking if anyone had been attacked by him?

Sorry, but the Worboys case doesn’t seem to be support for not having anonymity – anonymity doesn’t seem relevant to that particular case.

I don’t think anonymity for the accused is the right way to go (back) to an exceptional rule for the accused here. If a case cannot stand up in court I’m pretty sure that goes some way in repairing reputational damage.

I also don’t see why it should only be relevant to high profile cases of stranger rape. Given that we know that most forms of sexual assault and abuse involve victims who know the perpetrator, and we know that most victims do not come forward for some time, or ever, because they fear (often rightly) that they will not get justice, and since perpetrators rarely do these things just once, it is reasonable to assume that there will often be other victims who also know the perpetrator, and who may come forward once they learn of an accusation.

Anonymity would prevent this and I don’t think that should happen.

Bother, pet interaction with the F5 button ate my longer comment.

In a nutshell, what I meant to say was this:

High profile cases and stranger rape like the Worboys case are a different matter, but anonymity is actually still a bad thing in the most likely of scenarios:

We know that usually the victims knows the perpetrator, we know that perpetrators often strike again if they have got away with it before, we know that most victims do not come forward, so it stands to reason at the time of an accusation there will often be other victims in the vicinity who will hear of it and have another chance at justice.

Anonmymity would prevent this, and that would not be good.

Regarding the whole cry rape thing – which has always struck me as a strange diversion – being accused of any crime screws with a reputation, but being acquitted goes a long way towards repairing that.

Hm, or maybe it wasn’t the cat after all, my last comment hasn’t appeared yet either. If I have in effect now triple posted, do feel free to remove any comments after the first, including this one.

Interesting piece from the End Violence Against Women Coalition on why anonymity remains a bad idea: http://www.politics.co.uk/comment-analysis/2013/02/19/comment-anonymity-for-rape-defendants-is-a-tired-argument-th

66. Robin Levett

@Maria S #38:

All that these comments serve to do is amply demonstrate the perception that people accused of rape are treated worse (by who?) than other defendants, while telling us nothing about how accurate those perceptions are.

You need to educate yourself. Are you familiar with the term “nonce”? It is used by cons to describe sex-offenders or, more accurately from their point of view, persons upon whom it is open season. In general prisions, all sex-offenders will be held in solitary on what I remember as Rule 43 (now Rule 45), for their own safety.

That persecution extends also to those simply suspected of sex offences; you’ll remember that Assange, when on remand, was held in solitary on Rule 45.

You’ll remember the effects of Rebekah Wade’s campaign against paedophiles; those exposed had their lives made hell. Even paediatricians had their houses burnt – or at least one did.

To deny that here is a unique stigma even to being suspected of a sex crime is to deny obvious reality.

(Phil Hunt @ 7 even decides, without bothering to click the link provided or even to google, that the false complaint figure of 3% is probably made up!).

Well, having read the source report, it all depends. If you mean to imply, as Sian appears to, that 97% of rape reports are genuine in the sense that they represent actual occasions of rape then that is, bluntly, fiction.

Robin Levett @ “But how many other serial rapists have been caught and convicted by publishing their identity, as compared with the number of those acquitted of rape who have lost their job, marriage and good name as a result of publicity?”

Well, what is that number? Being prosecuted for any crime is bound to disrupt the defendant’s personal and professional life in multiple ways. If there is research that demonstrates that there is a significant difference in outcomes for rape defendants as opposed to other defendants I would certainly be interested to hear about it. I am sure that it would be valuable in ensuring that people who have been through the criminal justice system are better supported in returning to their ordinary lives, as well as providing the groundwork for a more informed discussion of this issue! In the meantime I would point out that it is not hard to think of of several famous men who have been publicly accused of rape and even convicted who have managed to continue to enjoy professional success despite that – for example, Mike Tyson and Roman Polanski.

Tyson’s career was violence; even so, his career after his rape conviction was hardly a professional success.

Polanski, it is true, has apologists, who are prepared to forgive what they see as the indiscretion of “consensual” sex with an underage girl. His career in Hollywood is dead, however; and strong majorities in both Europe and the USA feel he should be deported to the USA.

Neither is a particularly run of the mill sex offender. Contrast the destruction of Michael Barrymore’s career after Stuart Lubbock’s death. Again, not a run of the mill person, and no sexual charges were eventually brought – but the gay sexual assault allegations killed his career.

Robin Levett @ 26: “the arguments in favour of victim anonymity also apply in favour of defendant anonymity”

This completely fails to explain how and why the arguments are equivalent.

No; but my comment at #19 did.

Moreover, to see an equivalence between complainant and defendant is precisely the kind of prejudiced attitude that is the problem here.

Don’t put words in my mouth. It is precisely this kind of bad faith interpretation of comment that makes sensible discussion very difficult.

The point I made in my original comment was that arguing that victims should have anonymity because the unique stigma of the crime dissuaded them from coming forward, but that defendants should not because there was no unique stigma attached to sexual crime is peculiarly one-eyed.

Please address that argument, rather than throwing insults around.

Victims of any crime are not the people on trial, but victims of rape are frequently talked about as if they should be.

And when I talk about victims of rape as if they should be on trial, then is the time when this is relevant; until then, please stop tarring me with that brush.

When over and over again discussion about the problem of rape is derailed by discussion about false rape complaints, when it has already been established that false complaints are no higher than for other kinds of crime

Has it been? Serious question – the study that I have seen quoted, Kelly, Lovett and Regan (2005), upon which I comment in the comment to which I link above, does not even establish the correct number for false reports of rape. What is the basis for your claim?

it’s clear that there is a great deal of reluctance to grant rape victims the basic good faith that is extended to victims of any other kind of crime.

Rape is not like any other crime, for many reasons. One, relevant here, is that conviction for rape depends crucially upon the credibility of the victim in a way that, for example, burglary does not.

There is usually physical evidence of burglary; broken window, forced door, etc. That physical evidence would not normally exist if no burglary had in fact occurred. Again, “lack of consent” is not an element of burglary; if the burglar positively establishes that the purported victim consented to the taking, then that will be a good defence. The prosecution doesn’t however, going in, need be too concerned about whether the victim is believable – if the defence is consent, the defendant will have to explain why he nevertheless found it necesary to break the window/force the door.

Rape however very often is not accompanied by physical injury; in the absence of which the physical evidence of rape would be the presence of the attacker’s semen in the victim’s vagina. That evidence, however very often exists where no rape occurs. The occasions of consensual sexual intercourse far outnumber those of rape.

Again, that evidence may not even exist, or be recoverable – neither forensic scientists nor SOCOs are perfect.

The effect is that the victim’s evidence may well be all there is even to establish penetration; and her evidence is of course crucial in establishing lack of consent. Her evidence, and hence her credibility, is therefore crucial in establishing both the physical act constituing rape and the lack of consent. It is therefore inevitable,by the very nature of the offence, that the victim’s credibility is in focus from the very beginning in a way it is not for other crimes. It is not a question of “doubt”; it is that the victim’s credibility is vital, and has to be tested.

67. Robin Levett

Oh, and Sian – could you stand up and deal with the comments on your post and stop scatter-bombing the thread with references without making a point on them?

You’ll remember the effects of Rebekah Wade’s campaign against paedophiles; those exposed had their lives made hell. Even paediatricians had their houses burnt – or at least one did.

To deny that here is a unique stigma even to being suspected of a sex crime is to deny obvious reality.

There’s a difference though, more people give a toss about kids being raped than they do adults. You see more men posturing about “I swear if anyone touches my kids I swear I’ll do time!” than you do about “If anyone drugs a girl’s drink in this club and rapes them I swear I’ll do time!”, for example. Indeed ‘nonce’ usually applies more often to child sex abusers, which is why Phil Collins ended up fighting against paedophilia wearing a T-Shirt with ‘Nonce-sense’ written on it for Brass Eye’s special.

Contrast the destruction of Michael Barrymore’s career after Stuart Lubbock’s death. Again, not a run of the mill person, and no sexual charges were eventually brought – but the gay sexual assault allegations killed his career.

The dead body in his swimming pool did FAR more damage to his career than the gay sex assault allegations. The implication being that he was a murderer, which is worse than being a rapist.

69. Chaise Guevara

@ 68 Cylux

“The implication being that he was a murderer, which is worse than being a rapist.”

Is it? Murder often has mitigating circumstances (panic, blind rage etc.) whereas I can’t imagine any for rape except mental illness. And I know I’d feel less uncomfortable discovering I worked with a reformed murderer than a reformed rapist. I also find it easier to imagine a known murderer being able to get back into mainstream society.

#68/#69; also I suspect most people hearing of somebody not found guilty of murder will by default assume they were wrongly accused; most people hearing of somebody not found guilty of rape will assume they did it but got away with it.

Cylux

“There’s a difference though, more people give a toss about kids being raped than they do adults. You see more men posturing about “I swear if anyone touches my kids I swear I’ll do time!” than you do about “If anyone drugs a girl’s drink in this club and rapes them I swear I’ll do time!”, for example.”

That’s a rather weak argument, the difference there is that parents are usually extremely protective of their children and the girl in the bar is presumably unrelated. I don’t suppose you hear many people saying. ” if anyone attacks the barman and steals the takings I swear I’ll do time ” either, which tells you nothing about attitudes to robbery with violence.

72. Robin Levett

@Cylux #68:

Indeed ‘nonce’ usually applies more often to child sex abusers, which is why Phil Collins ended up fighting against paedophilia wearing a T-Shirt with ‘Nonce-sense’ written on it for Brass Eye’s special.

It might mean that on TV; amongst prisoners it has (so far as I am aware) always meant all sex offenders.

The dead body in his swimming pool did FAR more damage to his career than the gay sex assault allegations. The implication being that he was a murderer, which is worse than being a rapist.

I don’t agree on either count. The gay sex assault allegation related to the dead body in his swimming pool; while the death could have been an accident, the sex wouldn’t have been.

Being a murderer attracts a mandatory life sentence, whereas rape carries a sentence of up to life; but apart from that, I think you’re in a minority.

That’s a rather weak argument, the difference there is that parents are usually extremely protective of their children and the girl in the bar is presumably unrelated.

Thank you for making my point for me, the premise behind the total destruction of reputation that an accusation of rape is supposed to carry is that everyone will A)give a shit about it, and B)all fall on the one side of hating them because rapist. When frequently what happens is ‘oh he’s a rapist him, best be careful round him’. Here’s one example of what I’m talking about. I also have one from personal experience, an acquaintance/friend of mine was toward the end of 2011 accused of rape by his wife and thrown out onto the street. This is his third accusation of rape by a partner that I am aware of, the previous two former partner’s having been convinced by his father, a policeman, to not pursue the matter any further. Aside from myself, who had little to do with him in the first instance, his friends have pretty much stuck by him and helped him out with his now tumultuous and on-off relationship with his wife and kids. Indeed if anything his alcoholism his caused more damage to his life than accusations of rape (his wife pretty much filled her facebook wall with condemnations against him, everyone she and he knows, now know) which thus far haven’t affected his life in the slightest.

Furthermore, we are all aware of the pro-rape websites about aren’t we? There’s the danger that because ‘we’ instinctively think rape is horrible and beyond the pale that everyone else does. The truth, sadly, is much greyer.

Cylux

Sorry but I don’t see what point I have made for you, I was questioning the logic of your comparison in relation to your argument not the argument itself. Your point might have been more convincing, although still rather confused, If you had compared the reaction to the rape of all children with the rape of an adult, rather than the rape of someone’s own child.

How come that when it comes to rape, leftists who’d normally criticise state power and the law and order mentality suddenly turn into state worshipers?

@75 I fear this counts as feeding, but if by “state worshipper” you mean someone who believes in the rule of law and its just application, what exactly are you?

I thought this was one of the few issues that really do attract a broad consensus around here, and one in which our country is better off than most. Not that there are many places in the world where criminal law specifically is considered optional. Arguing about what should be in the law notwithstanding.

Besides, enforcing anonymity is surely more work for the state… just think of all those contempt charges you’d have to enforce against victims who confide in the wrong person or folks who try to warn another potential target. That’s the kind of “state power and law and order mentality” I would rather avoid.

Does that make me leftist now?

77. Silly Nurble

Being accused of rape doesn’t cause any damage to a mans reputation – Julie Bindel says so!

Chaise Guevara @ 54 – I said it was disingenuous because @ 33 you grossly misrepresented the article:

“TBH, the whole article seems to be written on the assumption that accusation is proof, and that courts are an unreasonable block standing between the guilty and their punishment”

So does Thornavis @ 35:

“No unfortunately it isn’t, that’s very much how this way of thinking appears to many men, me included. It is an article of faith amongst feminists that the conviction rate for rape is too low and that something must be done to change that. Most of would probably tend to agree but the something that must be done all to often seems to be that the standards of proof required should be lowered, few feminists will actually say this outright but the implication is pretty clear.”

You may indeed both believe that the unspoken meaning of the OP is to lower standards of proof, but it’s still a massive and unwarranted leap of logic.

What feminists are concerned with is the massive underreporting of rape and the high attrition rate of rape cases. Averages of Home Office figures for 2009-2012 are that 78,000 estimated rapes are committed every year (based on prevalence surveys), 16,041 rapes are reported to police, 2,873 are prosecuted, and 1,153 are convicted. So an enormous number of rapes are never reported, and the vast majority of those that are reported never reach trial. So there are a lot of perpetrators getting away with rape, and a lot of survivors being let down. Figures from:
http://www.informationisbeautiful.net/visualizations/rape-a-lack-of-conviction/

Sian is not calling for a reduction in standards of proof, but for rape reports to be taken seriously and properly investigated and prosecuted. Studies of why the vast majority rape reports do not reach trial show failings by police and prosecutors, both in building cases and in supporting complainants through the process from report to trial. She’s entirely right: these failings benefit rapists.

I highly recommend taking the time to read A gap or a chasm? Attrition in reported rape cases by Kelly, Lovett and Regan, because it is the biggest study of how rape cases are dealt with, it deals with the UK, and it also include an useful overview of prior research about rape. It uses data from police reports and from the records of sexual assault referral centres, to look at 2,643 reported cases in all, plus data from some SARC service users who did not report to police. It traces how and why cases were dropped or complainants withdrew, and cites the experiences of complainants/service users at each stage. It finds that in multiple ways at all stages of the process that police and prosecutors do not do their jobs properly (e.g. telling complainants that there’s little chance of conviction, giving up on cases with vulnerable victims, the complainant not being updated as to the progress of the case, the complainant being let down by prosecutors who haven’t talked to them and don’t represent their account of the attack properly).

“The most important recommendation from this study … is that a shift occurs from an exercise in scepticism focusing on discredibility to enhanced evidence-gathering and case-building”

A gap or a chasm?
http://library.npia.police.uk/docs/hors/hors293.pdf

Presumption of innocence is not under threat. If you think that asking for rape cases to be dealt with properly by the criminal justice system is the same thing as treating accusation as proof then by that account no suspects would ever be prosecuted for anything. Dealing properly with rape cases does not mean that defendants are presumed guilty but that it is accepted that there is a case to be investigated and tested at trial.

Bob B @ 57:

“In short, why put the emphasis on insisting on naming those accused of rape rather than inquiring as to the numbers of, and motives for false rape claims or pleas to reduce the factors contributing to rape – whether true or fabricated – such as binge drinking?”

It is important to remember that currently no defendants are given anonymity. It has been proposed that rape defendants should have anonymity, so those advocating this exception need to make the case for it. You and others talk vaguely about the high numbers of false complaints as being a significant problem, and you’ve linked to 2 news reports, but that tells us nothing useful about the scale of the problem. What are those numbers? How can we gauge the scale of the problem without that? See below for some numbers.

I did find a useful study of alcohol use and rape by the way, which addresses the perception that binge-drinking is a problem, finding that it is not: http://eprints.mdx.ac.uk/6991/2/alcohol_and_drugs_-_Lovett_%26_Horvath__2009_.pdf Alcohol is something that rapists take advantage of either to make victims vulnerable or to excuse themselves, but it’s not the be all and end all of causes of rape. Massive numbers of people go out drinking without committing rape.

Robin Levett @ 66 – I am not putting words in your mouth nor did I insult you. To say that the stigma associated with rape is a reason for anonymity of both complainant and defendant is to imply an equivalence between the two. As I have said there is a massive problem with the underreporting of rape. Rape is an extremely traumatic experience. The psychological fallout can be extensive and long-term. Kelly, Lovett and Regan show that survivors do not report because, among other reasons, they fear that going through with a case will be an ordeal they cannot cope with. Anonymity is one of many measures designed to support survivors through the process. The Ched Evans case shows that even a convicted rapist can still enjoy a great deal of public support, and the kind of harassment his victim suffered when her anonymity was breached. You say that you don’t see rape complainants as being on trial, but then you go on at length about why their credibility must be tested. Your belief is not unusual, it’s one that predominates in discussion about rape, and it rests on the assumption that women are likely to lie about rape. This disbelief compromises the thorough investigation and prosecution of rape.

Yes, there is information about the rates of false reports of rape, and it does show that it is lower than people believe it to be. You seemed to miss that Kelly, Lovett and Regan do give the number of false complaints in their sample of 2643 reported rape cases drawn from six areas of the UK: 8% (216). These false complaints involved 39 named suspects, 6 arrests and 2 charges. The researchers found inconsistencies in how police classified reports as false, and so re-classified the false complaints according to the strict definitions the police should have used (the complainant admitted lying, or evidence showed they were lying) and found the rate of false complaints to be around 3% (67 of 2643 cases). They found that police officers that they interviewed believed false complaints to be far more prevalent than the figures suggested. (They also cite a 2001 study of police files in New Zealand in which 3 reports classified as false later proved to be early reports of serial rapists.) Their discussion of false allegations (including reasons why the complaints were categorised as false, and reasons given by admitted false complainants) is on pages 47 to 53 of the report (that’s pages 63-69 of the pdf file – link given above)

This 12 page article (pdf) False Reports: Moving Beyond The Issue… by Lonsway, Archambault and Lisak is a very informative discussion of what is known about false reports, and states that most reliable studies tend to find false reporting rates of 2%-8%. It points out that not all false reports involve allegations against a named person, and that there are reasons why genuine complainants may give inconsistent accounts of what happened (e.g. disorganised thinking due to trauma, omission of things they think may reflect badly on them, unwillingness to describe everything that happened to them).
http://www.ndaa.org/pdf/the_voice_vol_3_no_1_2009.pdf

This blog post summarises a lot of that article and discusses the factors and issues involved in studying the rate of false reports, plus summarises the section on false reports from A Gap or a Chasm:
http://www.amptoons.com/blog/2009/04/15/eugene-kanins-study-of-false-rape-reports/

79. Chaise Guevara

@ MariaS

You’re right. Let me clarify. My objections were not about the article itself – got mixed up. I was talking about the title (probably written by Sunny) and the Rape Crisis quote posted by Sian @18. I think both of those show that attitude, without coming out and flat-out saying it. Whether or not Sian shares that attitude comes down to whether or not she quoted that stuff in approval. I got the impression she did, but it’s not certain.

Most of the rest of your post is a straw man against me, although I believe it to have been written in good faith. I’m not arguing that we shouldn’t fix problems within the crime and justice system. I’m just calling out what I perceive to be an attitude on the part of Sunny, Rape Crisis and anyone who agrees with that quote: that people accused and then not prosecuted or acquitted of rape should be treated as rapists by society.

The title ignores the fact that convicted rapists would not be anonymous. Yes, some would probably avoid conviction under such a policy (some, albeit less, might be convicted because of it), but the majority of people who benefited would be those accused but not convicted. The only way the “who benefits?” argument seems cogent to me is if you think that ostracisation or abuse of people accused but not convicted is a good thing. The Rape Crisis quote pretty much says that if you’re accused but not convicted, women should be warned to stay the hell away from you.

Rape has a bad attrition rate compared to other serious crimes, but it’s in the same ballpark. I would imagine that the difference is made up of attitude problems, plus the simple fact that it’s likely to be word against word. There’s an understandable false belief that it’s got an incredibly low attrition rate because it’s the only crime reported on that basis: others are measured by charge-to-conviction (attrition is report-to-conviction). Source, and sorry about the melodramatic title: http://www.straightstatistics.org/article/how-panic-over-rape-was-orchestrated

That doesn’t make the problem go away. It also doesn’t even attempt to address problems with rape not being reported. But it does argue against there being huge systemic bias against alleged rape victims. And this sort of thing is important when we’re weighing the costs and benefits of protecting those falsely accused (and those rightly accused who get away with it, but there’s no way to distinguish, or they’d be convicted).


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. No Rape Defendants Should Not Have Anonymity But A Woman Who Delibratly Makes A False Allegation Should Be Prosecuted « Mediasnoops2

    [...] http://liberalconspiracy.org/2013/02/17/anonymity-for-rape-defendants-mostly-helps-one-group-rapists… [...]





Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.