Friday, February 15, 2008

Rape's Receding Resolutions

Rape, one of the most despicable and definitely traumatizing crimes against women, is losing in the battle for convictions in the courts. The United Kingdom seems to be the haven for rapists, because of attitudes, insensitivity, myths, and legal restrictions that favor the rapists; and tends to place the victim in front of a judge, jury, media, and the public at large, to be raped anew several times over. In Glocestershire, one of the worst performing counties on rape cases, the conviction rate in 1980 was one in three complaints; today, it is one in twenty. In the entire UK, the conviction rate is less than 5%. While the number has seen a small increase in convictions, it has not kept pace with the soaring rise in reported cases. Rapists are escaping justice, and the women victims are being imprisoned by the emotional shock of their experience against the rapists and the criminal justice system.

The Rape Of Justice, a public mock trial to be conducted by the Women Against Rape (WAR) in England, will invite women to speak about their experience of sexual violence, highlighting the low conviction rape in the country. Law enforcers and prosecutors will be tried and are expected to be shamed at the way complaints are processed and how professionally cases get serious treatment. WAR has been at the forefront of victims of sexual violence for 30 years, and has been successful in getting laws enacted such as rape within marriage, rape of prostitutes, procedures for the treatment and processing of rape complaints, and a legal definition for consent and what constitutes absence of consent. However, the attitudes and perspectives of society have not been able to cope with these developments; including those in law enforcement and the prosecutors.

According to an ICM poll in for Amnesty in 2005, 33% of the British people believe the victim is partly to blame for the rape if she was wearing revealing clothes, flirting, or drinking. These are the very people that end up as jurors in rape trials. In a country as progressive and advanced in human rights as the UK, it is incomprehensible to think that women and children are still put on trial, blamed for their own rape, discouraged from reporting, disbelieved, and even accused of lying and imprisoned. Times have indeed changed, attitudes have not.

Some of the myths that perpetuate this anomalous situation include: that rape victims would report the assault immediately; the victim would be very upset and emotionally raw when she releases these emotions in court; and, that the victim should have attempted to escape. Thus, jurors dismiss the trauma and fear of the attack, and the social stigma that it carries for the victim; they expect rage and tears in court, not the detached and controlled testimony of one who is piecing herself together; and expect the victim to show proof of struggle to get a conviction. Experts could be used to dispel these myths, but the British government has ruled against it because the general evidence may become evidence about the specific complainant in a particular case, and it could become a battle of experts.

Law enforcers and prosecutors may be guilty of overestimating false allegations in rape complaints, which only bolsters a culture of skepticism within their ranks. They have been accused by WAR of turning down cases on the flimsiest excuse and are taken to task for having sexism institutionalized in the criminal justice system. Prosecutors need to shift focus from the "discreditability of complainants" to enhanced evidence gathering and case building. The mindset of law enforcers and prosecutors must move from the victim proving a crime was committed, to the evidence that supports the complaint; not to the biases of clothing, behavior or intoxication.The method in which sexual violence complaints are investigated and rape cases are prosecuted should establish that it took place without consent. This will assist in getting a higher rate of conviction for this dreadful crime.

The use of DNA evidence in cases where the assailant is known to the victim (8 out of 10 cases) is easily trumped by a claim of consent; and jurors, as required by law, give the benefit of their doubts to the defendant. This tactic often leads to the defendant walking away, also because of the myths and attitudes against women in such situations. The presentation of previous convictions and violent behavior as evidence has been made easier, but it is not used as often as it should. What is really needed is to ensure that the issue of consent goes before a jury, and to address the attitudes that put victims in an untenable position. Often, the woman is vilified for being raped, and society must advance its thoughts on this crime and stop blaming the victim, and help her piece herself together.

The idea that what a woman wears, how she encourages intimate contact, and the fact that she has had a drink; presupposes that she wants to have sex - exists in the mind of those who have the brain of a sewer rat. The filthy, stinking, and foul variety who have managed to elevate themselves to the septic tanks of human beings.



Philippine Updates said...

need not go far. In our country, there are lawyers who claim that their clients (rapists)are not guilty simply because the rape victims and their parents ask for huge out of court settlements. I almost punched one's face back to law school for spreading such a malicious statement.

Blogtommy said...

Interesting the UK numbers you cite. It's not good in most places to say the least. Rape is difficult at best from a law enforcement perspective and childhood rape even tougher. Having supervised and dealt with literally hundreds of Sex offenders through the years I can tell you how those minds work and society in general is the breeding ground for em. Most are not predatory, nor will they reoffend, but it's that 20-30% who are that continue to terrorize the world and laugh at a system that does more to protect them than their victims. Well said Durano my friend...well said.

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hi JC,

I believe it's prevalent worldwide. I had wanted to get the stats for the entire Europe but it would make the post too long. Also, the UK is a special case since it has the so-called progressive laws on rape enacted, but hardly ever implemented effectively.

In a Catholic country like the Philippines and its conservative customs and church influence, rape victims are normally doubted first and are hard pressed to prove that they were violated.

The world has along way to go in terms of changes in attitude. --Durano, done!

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hi Tommy,

It is also my thinking that around 30% are the repeat offenders. However, the 70% or so who are not are also guilty of pre-conceived notions and biases against women who make assumptions on the basis of dress, decorum or intoxication.

You're right about society as the breeding ground of such attitudes as in the UK, and this is also true in many countries around the world.

That the assailants are given more protection than victims is an abomination. Considering that I'm a father to 4 girls, this system bothers me a great deal. Luckily I also have 4 sons to deter any predator. :-) --Durano, done!

The Fitness Diva said...

Wow. I had no idea. You would think that this is a case study from one of the "lesser developed" countries, not the UK. Reminds me of the case of that woman who got gang raped in Pakistan, and then got 200 lashes for crying out to the media about it. I'm glad that WAR is going to put on this mock trial and give them 'what for'. With our societies becoming more aggressive and violent as a whole, this type of crime cannot be encouraged in such a way. It's almost like a war on women.

jc smith said...

Hi Durano, good for you to have 4 sons to defend your daughters. While I don't have a son (legit and otherwise, hehe!), I have brothers who are fast with their guns and become deranged at the thought of a woman being abused. While that will be enough for me, I fear for the community where money can buy protection from justice. While that is the case everywhere, there are countries like ours where the concentrations of evil seems to be very huge.

Tapline said...

great post! This is not the status of rapes in the US. The police have rape kits which are completed when an allegation is made and an investigation is started. The police usually have access to a rape counsellor and they are called in immediately. One of the biggest problems is that the victim does not want to press charges because of the trial process. Not that she won't be believed, but because the perp has a right to face his accuser. nice huh!!!anyway that's the justice system....stay well.....

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hi Fitness Diva,

The woman who was gang raped with her male friend was from Saudi Arabia. The global protest made the Saudis change their ruling and released her without the lashes. The government is still trying to initiate reforms in Saudi Society.

It's society that breeds the attitude about women and it has got to be changed. Laws can be changed, but attitudes take more time. --Durano, done!

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...


The concentration of evil can be located where there is concentration of power. Sometimes, even the religious people turn a blind eye to these things or actually engage in rape themselves.

The case of Smith and Nicole is a case in point. The US used a high profile "respectable" priest in the person of James B. Reuter to absolve Smith of any wrongdoing prior to a trial. American power - stronger than the power of God! Twooophe! --Durano, done!

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...


If you've seen how rape trials go, it's like the testimony of the victim lets her go through the rape again. Imagine if it was you, and you have to speak about the indignity and degrading manner in which you were abused in front of so many people - in detail!

Tommy was with law enforcement and what he says in his comment is accurate. Several rapes go unpunished even in America because of the stigma and the shame of exposure if the victim testifies; plus the judgment that people will render because of their attitude that the victim must have had it coming. --Durano, done!