A complex subject with no easy answers
I am prompted to write today by a piece I spotted in the media on the difficult subject of rape – I use the word ‘difficult’ deliberately because, for me, there are fundamentally worthy but conflicting issues involved on both sides.
All campaigners against rape tends to cite the facts firstly, that reported instances of this (generally accepted as heinous) crime represent a disappointingly small proportion of the actual rapes – or equivalent assaults – that actually occur; and secondly, that the number of reported rapes that eventually make it to court and then result ultimately in convictions is again depressingly tiny.
I’ve heard/seen 6% quoted as the figure in this regard.
On the rational face of it, therefore, the thrust that society as a whole has a great deal of work to do to rectify the ‘rape’ problem would seem to be unanswerable. Rape is wrong. Too much of it happens. Too few convictions result. What can we do about this?
There are various thrusts that can be worked upon simultaneously. There’s education and prevention – i.e. teaching men to respect the rights of women, teaching them (and women too perhaps) what constitutes genuine consent to sexual activity or even intercourse, and indeed what does not. Is there a genuine ‘gap in understanding’ between men and women as to what might mean yes and what might mean no, in terms of consent?
Some feminists would argue not. Others might counter by suggesting different, i.e. that ‘consent’ has to be a two-way thing, not just whatever any woman thinks it is at any particular time and in any particular circumstances.
Separately, there is a lot of talk about improving police procedures when interviewing and supporting allege rape victims.
Ditto with the courts, which activists complain are inherently biased (unintentionally or otherwise) against victims of this particular crime – they make the entire process of complaint then giving evidence intimidating, humiliating, stressful and adversarial etc. – to the point where (it is claimed) many women decide they just cannot go through with it.
Some, it seems, would even like to tamper with the age-old principle that an accused is deemed innocent until proved otherwise. With the crime of rape, or alleged rape, some of those supporting rape victims generally want that presumption to be reversed, i.e. so that the alleged rapist should be presumed guilty, until or unless he can prove his innocence.
Anything to ‘improve’ the statistics [if indeed that phrase is not meaningless – surely statistics are simply a statement of the fact, not a concept capable of being ‘improved’ per se?].
Well, okay, let’s put it another way – anything to raise the conviction rate of genuine rapes that actually take place … and thereby, hopefully, (1) punish the guilty but also simultaneously (2) create a worthwhile benchmark capable of deterring some potential or would-be rapists.
But then let us look at the themes running the other way.
It is a fundamental tenet of the law of England & Wales that an accused is innocent until proved guilty.
In terms of the judiciary and legal profession, this is a hard one to budge. To put it bluntly, if the prosecution cannot prove to a judicial professional and/or a jury [depending upon the crime and its potential seriousness] that a defendant committed an alleged crime to the standard of ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’, then it isn’t entitled to a conviction against him or her – end of message.
And why should a man accused of an alleged rape be treated any differently to one accused or an alleged armed robbery, or act of grievous bodily harm, or £100 million bank fraud?
Next, there are a small number of cases of alleged rape which have been invented … or possibly made up to explain an unfortunate set of circumstances that a woman may have got herself into.
The classic causal case is excessive drinking – which may either reduce the woman’s conscious ability to say no or even reduce her normal defences and resistance to clever seduction techniques or whatever [I recognise I’m getting into complicated territory here, so will not go further down this line].
Later, perhaps the next day, realising what went on, the woman is then sufficiently horrified and embarrassed to mount a claim of rape when in fact – even though feminists might recoil on principle at the very suggestion – to some degree (by the extent of her drinking and/or the clothes she was wearing and/or even or the flirtatious way she acted and indeed responded to an advance) she may have contributed to the situation that unfolded. Put at its starkest, what may have constituted a ‘yes’ the previous night may (in the woman’s mind) have become a ‘no’ by the morning.
There is a piece by Sandra Leville on the website of The Guardian today which, to my mind, perfectly illustrates the warped sense of proportions that sometimes come into play when it comes to discussing the crime of rape – see here – THE GUARDIAN
Being male, I recognise that I could be accused of bias or even non-politically correctness in saying this, but it seems to me that feminist activists complaining about ‘false rape complainants’ being pursued by the law [by implication at all, let alone aggressively] is cant of a particularly high order and therefore – contrary to their basically-laudable intentions – counter-productive to their cause.
Let us be straightforward about it. If people waste police time (or worse) by making false claims of any crime, they deserve everything that comes to them if they’re subsequently found guilty of a relevant offence in court.