Thursday, February 01, 2007

'Was she asking for it? Was she asking nice?' (Hole)

“While the rise in the number of rape complaints does not necessarily prove that the situation is worsening, the decline in the rate of convictions has been unequivocal and worrying.”

- The Rape Action Plan, The Home Office, 2002

The latest statistics in the UK suggest that, whilst more women are reporting rape than ever before, convictions are at a relative all-time low. In four years, convictions have dropped from 6.57% to 5.31%. A report suggests that at least a third of cases dropped should have been pursued, and that 25% were dropped because the woman “withdrew her complaint”. This was the overall result – police response varied dramatically (and unacceptably) depending on the area. Dropping the allegations doesn’t mean that a crime didn’t take place, it means that the victim was disheartened by a procedure that meant reliving her attack, or that she was coerced into doing so by police officers who believed that she was either lying or didn’t have enough of a case.

Incidents where the victim was intoxicated are, with depressing inevitability, among those that never get prosecuted because police do not believe that unconsensual sex took place. These are marked down as ‘no crime committed’, a clear breach of Home Office guidelines that states that this should only be the case if there is “verifiable information that no crime was committed” rather than an officer’s personal view. Second opinions, which should be automatic, are not sought, and first response officers are frequently badly trained. The medical aspect of rape investigations was also considered to be unacceptable – poor examinations and lost data created another stumbling block in seeking prosecution.

The Guardian cites the report as suggesting that “The failures not only inflated police perceptions of the scale of false allegations, but led to a loss of information about perpetrators and risked undermining the victim's credibility if she made a later report of rape”.

There may be hope on the way, though. By the end of 2008, Joan Ryan of the Home Office (a self-described feminist who has some fabulous things to say about politics and sexism in Women in Parliament: The New Suffragettes) has pledged to increase the number of sexual assault referral centres from the current 15 to 40, with an extra £1 million in funding.

If only governments were so supportive worldwide. In the US, South Dakota’s reintroduced ban on abortion has been modified oh-so-generously to exclude rape victims and victims incest (rape and incest are, according to South Dakota, not the same thing), as well as for the health of the woman. Jen’s post about this is far more coherent than I could hope to be right now, given the fact that I’m choking with anger, so you should go and read that, but the gist of the rape exceptions are that you must have reported your rape within 50 days, it must be have been confirmed by a doctor, and you must agree for blood to be taken from the foetus and used as DNA evidence by the police.

The anti-woman backlash has been predictably depressing. I’m sick to death of hearing that a woman being raped whilst drunk or dressing “provocatively” is the same as someone being mugged whilst walking down the street holding a wad of cash in his hand (and it’s always his, since women apparently don’t have independent finances to be reckless with). There is no such thing as an invitation to rape. How is having a few too many somehow a flashing sign saying ‘you can do what you want to me’? And not all women dress for male attention – even when they do, they want the attention on their terms, not those of some sleazy perv who can’t take no for an answer.

But hey – if the Japanese Health Minister is to be believed, we’re all just baby-making factories anyway.


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At 12:48 PM, Anonymous Ruth said...

Have you heard about this new programme-'The Verdict'? Celebrities as a jury on a rape case.

The trailor suggests it will make me too angry if I watch it.

R x

p.s. liking the new layout

At 7:08 AM, Anonymous witchy-woo said...

Mmmmm...sink sink socks. An obvious troll...yeah....silly me... I followed the links.

Your link to Joan Ryan isn't working though (at least, not for me) and I'd like to know what she has to say, on record so to speak.

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