Clegg and Cameron in ‘Rape’ Shame

May 20, 2010

I like to write in a smartarse stylee. It’s where I feel most comfortable. Facetiousness is my friend.

To be frank, my world would pretty much have to go tsunami before I’d let go of the bobbing raft of superficiality, and go it alone in the deep and scary seas of really-meaning-it.

But the fact that the LibCon Coalition’s first thrust, in the icky matter of How To Deal With Women,  has been to bestow the right of anonymity on those accused of rape? Truly, you are shitting me.

The reason that rape victims have historically been protected by anonymity is that pretty much every culture and every class has a structural inclination to believe that women ‘ask for it’ .

This is such a self-evident truth that women have been protected IN LAW (that’s quite hard to organize, by the way) from the contempt of their own communities. They’ve been acknowledged to be at such a disadvantage in terms of how this crime is prosecuted, that they’ve been set apart from the victims of every other crime. In law.

Scuttling around the damp edges of culture, in the nooks and crannies of libertarian respectability, are those who say “NO FAIR! Despite the fact that any reasonable person would look at the rape conviction stats and cry, or hang their head in shame and fear and despair – I WANT PARITY!”

I despise these people. They’re not only misogynists, they are thick misogynists, and thick misogynists are on page 1 of my Big Book of Tossers.

Rape victims aren’t being treated differently from rape defendants, you dumbarse. They’re being treated differently from the victims of other types of crime. The law has said “Is there a difference between a complainant of rape and those who allege other types of crime?” and thought “Yes, actually, there is. For the cultural and social reasons delineated above, we need to give a special Shield of Justice to rape victims – because god knows, looking at the stats, they freakin’  need it.”

This shameful legislation says “Ah come now. Women lie about rape – all the time! So often, that the law must protect rape defendants MORE than they protect any other type of defendant.” This proposal says WOMEN LIE ABOUT RAPE, WE ALL KNOW THAT.

For. Crying. Out. Loud.


15 Responses to “Clegg and Cameron in ‘Rape’ Shame”

  1. Anon Says:

    What about the presumption of innocence?

    • Well, start agitating for anonymity for those accused of every other crime, and then I will listen to your argument.

      • Meg Says:

        You don’t have to agitate for the anonymity of those accused for every other crime for the very reasons you have highlighted above. The contempt found in communities which places the victims at such a disadvantage is also found in the contempt found in those have been accused and are innocent. The victims are rightly protected by law why not the innocent? There may be only a few, but do we need to create any more victims?

        Its the great dilemma. No right minded person would ever want to do anything that would prevent victims coming forward or eventual convictions, and the eventual end of this horrific crime for good. Unfortunately we must stick to the principles of a fair justice system, and the central tenant of being innocent until being proven guilty. At present the innocent are not protected, because a rape accusation carries a stigma that few other crimes carry, which even a not-guilty verdict can shake off.

        It is unpalatable, it doesn’t help the right and just cause to get justice for this terrible crime, but we have a moral duty to protect the innocent as well, and as much as we might not like it because it is a step that in no way helps the victims. We need a fair justice system above all else. The system at the moment doesn’t help the victims and that needs to be fixed desperately, but that doesn’t mean we should trample over the innocent in order to fix it.

  2. Tia Fisher Says:

    Thanks Kate. Well said. And for that matter – if we’re talking parity here – why wouldn’t we grant the same right of anonymity to any other person accused of any other crime, on the premise that they may well be innocent until proved guilty?

  3. Tia Fisher Says:

    Um, was I meant was – we don’t grant others accused of other crimes anonymity and neither *should* we grant it to those accused of rape.

    In fact from the point of view of encouraging other victims of the same rapist to come forward, there is even LESS reason to grant it here.

    No-one could cry ‘parity’ without realising the idiocy of that argument (i.e. there is no parity with defendants of other crimes: my argument above).

    I agree with you – it’s as though we are saying it’s very likely that those accused of rape will be innocent of the crime, because (as you say) of course women just make these things up .. .

    Sorry if you misunderstood me!

  4. Steve Ainsworth Says:

    I wasn’t aware that anonymity was a pre-requisite for the presumption of innocence. After all no anonymity is required for adults accused of other serious crimes such as murder or assault – why for rape? Looking at the latest statistics for the prosecutions and convictions for rape I fail to see how extending anonymity to those accused of rape is actually going to encourage victims to come forward.

  5. Andy Says:

    I think the media must take some blame for the fact people think this might be needed.

    It’s all well and good saying that we can either agitate for all-purpose anonymity or be against the idea of this is… but that’s overlooking the difference in attitudes society takes to different crimes mostly, to be frank, for completely logical reasons.

    If someone stole my car I’d want to hit them, if they raped my girlfriend I’d want to kill them, slowly…

    It’s a strange analogy but it makes the point.

    There’s an overriding sense with many newspapers that if someone was let off that they THOUGHT was guilty, that it must have been a technicality, in how they report the story and the facts they pass on, even sometimes in blatant editorials, they’ll basically tell their readership the person was guilty but had a clever lawyer (an OJ report).

    Sometimes they don’t need the media, people are just happy to think the worst of someone else.

    If that person was a robber, or a fraudster, or possibly even a murderer there will be anger and complaint, but more often than not it’ll die down to a certain extent.

    Because of the horrific nature of rape and its social stigma (often wrongly on BOTH parties) a different attitude has to be looked at.

    A rape accusation for an innocent man or woman can stick to him like Clegg on a Tory, there’s the old “no smoke without fire” excuse when people WANT to believe the worst of someone, and they often do, trust me, I’ve answered the phones for a local radio station phone-in.

    I’ve read articles and stories of people who were accused wrongly and found innocent, but they still had to move home, sometimes country. Even then often things will come back to haunt them about it, an old newspaper report found by someone in the new area etc.

    When the media and the public mob will allow both innocent until proven guilty and, even more importantly, innocent after proven innocent these are the problems people are going to have to face, how to track down and prosecute the bastards who are guilty without potentially damaging the lives of those wrongly accused.

    Sorry, became rather a long diatribe!

  6. kensey Says:

    whilst i would like to be able to share your anger, i cannot. it is a sad truth that anonymity for rape victims is essential and correct.. and that the world is such that special treatment is needed for this crime.

    but an innocent man who is accused of rape either maliciously or after a genuine misunderstanding.. why can’t the law protect him and his reputation until his guilt is determined? even if it is only in a small number of cases that he’s genuinely worthy of that protection? one of the key arguments against the death penalty is that the death of one innocent person is too high a price to pay for whatever ‘good’ can come from what happens to the guilty.

    rape is different to most crimes. the vast majority of cases come down to one persons word against another. it is not a crime to have sex (as it is to, say, commit an act of violence… which i say with absolute understanding that rape is a violent crime) so the case to be proven is not concerning whether events happened, it’s what the parties honestly believed the intentions of the other were. that’s tough… and that’s a factor in conviction rates being low. it is also this which makes it easier for people to make false allegations and, more significantly, puts doubt in the minds of those asked to convict.

    someone acquitted of (say) murder or abh can walk free and say to people ‘i didn’t do it, i wasn’t there, the court said so’… it’s more a matter of ‘fact’ than ‘we had sex, and it was consensual, the court said so’. there’s a stink which lingers stronger with that and which can ruin lives. gossip and prejudice tend to run the rule over the principles of justice.

    if truth be told, there is a case for finding other crimes where the anonymity of the accused is protected. for his/her own safety, i think it should be done in cases of child abuse (though i can imagine the media reaction to that!) but why not in other crimes? why shouldn’t someone’s reputation be protected by law until they have been convicted of a crime?

    does protecting the identity of someone accused of rape create a risk of further injustice for rape victims? i don’t see how it does, but maybe you think differently. if not, what reason is there to deny this? the fact that it doesn’t happen in other crimes shouldn’t come into it… two wrongs don’t make a right, and all that.

    or do you think that these people should be named and shamed because, even if they get acquitted they should have their reputations destroyed because ‘there’s no smoke without fire’? that sounds facetious.. and i don’t mean it that way… but i’ve long sought a good reason why the law should not afford this protection, and you’ve yet to provide one.

  7. Anon Says:

    It is done for other crimes; Baby P and the Bulger killing are two examples.

    Using conviction rates (which are actually over 60% for rape; not substantially different from other criminal cases) is not a good reason to change a presumption of innocence. It applies in rape cases particularly because, apart from the stigma, it is very often not disputed that the parties had sex, just whether it is consensual. Given the tone of this post, you start to see the potential stigma for the innocent there: “had sex, but not convicted? Well, the system lets the guilty off so I’m still going to throw a brick through your window”.

    What’s more, defendant anonymity can help return a guilty verdict by neutralising any perception of a “mud sticks” ulterior motive.

    • Steve Ainsworth Says:

      In the case of Baby P anonymity was applied to protect the identity of the siblings of Baby P – the anonymity of the defendants was a byproduct of that ruling. In the case of the Jamie Bulger killing my understanding the anonymity was applied solely because the defendants were children at the time of the crime – a consistent approach taken in law when children are the defendants.

      There are other crimes where a similar stigma applies – the most obvious being paedophilia/child abuse. For consistency why are the same arguments not being applied in those cases? The reason obviously being that this would be beyond the pail (and therefore politically unacceptable) so why do the victims of rape not deserve the same rights?

      It is interesting that a right-wing press finds this position on the anonymity of defendants in rape cases as consistent with a view that the Human Rights Act should be repealed because it ignores the rights of the victims and protects the rights of the accused?!

  8. Carl Gardner Says:

    Tia is right: there are some cases where the public knowledge that someone is accused results in further rape complaints against him, either because it encourages a woman to come forward (having previously feared no one would believe her or having felt confused herself about what to do) or because it leads to his being recognised by the victims of previously unidentified attackers. I don’t know how many such cases there are, but their mere plausibility is enough to make me uneasy about this policy.

    I’m also against the idea of anonymity for everyone. The idea of public justice is very important, and should not simply be thrown away.

    It’s not outweighed by the presumption of innocence because none of this has anything to do with the presumption of innocence. It’s quite wrong to apply that principle here. The presumption of innocence is to prevent the state from imprisoning you without a fair trial. It’s not about protecting you from any and everything that might happen to you if you’re suspected of a crime. If it was, the police could never arrest you or question you, let alone prosecute you for rape.

    Finally, I object to this because it’s been sprung on the public by surprise. Apparently it’s been LibDem policy since 2006. But I’d never heard of it, and it wasn’t in their manifesto, or the Tory manifesto. It should have been flagged up before now if they intended to proceed with it immediately, without even any review of the sort they’ve gone for in other policy areas. Nothing’s changed since two weeks ago.

    Keeping quiet about your policies till you get in – is that the “new politics”?

    • kensey Says:

      it would be interesting, and relevant, to know how often other victims come forward as a result of an accused person being known to the public.

      the presumption of innocence operates fine from a pure legal perspective – but the point being made here is that it doesn’t work from a social perspective and IF this is a way that can protect the reputation of innocent people, then it’s worthy of consideration. if this were clearly a ‘no lose’ situation (i.e. no possible adverse impact of anonymity for the accused) then it would be a no-brainer because it would extend the legal presumption of innocence to a social presumption.

      as for the political point.. isn’t it a bit much to expect the parties to detail the specifics of everything that they will do in their manifestos? this change to the law, like most of the others they will pass, will fall into any number of woolly manifesto pledges. given that they didn’t explain how they’d cut £80bn off the budget deficit, they were hardly going to list the fine points of their reforms to criminal justice!

  9. A great post Kate, and some interesting points in the comments. Those arguing that we have a moral duty to protect the falsely accused (and a recent study found the rate of false allegations very low, between 2 and 9%, but receive disproportionate publicity) aren’t addressing why this isn’t being extended to those accused of other serious crimes with similar stigmas.

    Rape convictions are still the lowest in Europe and we have to ask why – SUCH a low rate hints at indifference or scepticism at the stages of evidence gathering and in courts. When rape cases do end in conviction, its sometimes because a woman coming forward gives courage to others who’ve been victims of sexual violence by the same man to come forward to. Anonymous defendants would mean this wouldn’t happen, making conviction rates even lower.

    If we could grant freedoms to the (small number of men)who are falsely accused of rape AND make sure we have a decent conviction rate, that would be great, but it’s worrying that a proposal could get through that could give heft to the idea people (after all, men get raped to) are likely to lie about getting raped.

  10. Francesca Newby Says:

    Great post, Kate. Totally agree with you and think it’s interesting the extent to which this issue reveals how deeply many are biased against women’s sovereignity without even realising it.

  11. Amazed at women who want this, who agree with this. Traitors. Divorced from their own sex. They probably think we have equality or something…

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