Friday, 28 May 2010

anonymity for rape defendants

You can write to the govt to question their proposal on giving anonymity to rape defendants. apparently they are considering comments carefully! email enquiries@geo.gsi.gov.uk

You can sign the petition here www.gopetition.com/petitions/drop-the-proposed-extension-of-anonymity-to-rape-defendants.html

this is the letter i have sent:

Dear Sir/Madam

I am writing to you with concern over the proposal to give anonymity for rape defendants. It is troubling that, in a society where 100,000 women are estimated to be raped every year, the government have chosen to focus on defendants rather than victims.

I understand that a false allegation of rape can lead to distress and personal upset to the defendant. However, the current false allegation rate is similar to that of other crimes and in fact, lower than the false accusation rate for crimes such as car insurance fraud.

I believe that by concentrating energy on the defendants, the government is detracting from the effort that should be made to securing a stronger conviction rate for rapists, and giving more support for victims of rape. It seems to me that the thinking is all back to front here. It is not the defendants who need to be protected, it is the victims.

Currently the rape conviction rate stands at 6.5%. This does not mean, as I am sure you are aware, that 94% of allegations are false. In fact, it more likely shows that many, many men are getting away with rape. We know this to be true. Lets take the cases of John Worbouys and Ian Huntley, as examples. Both men are now safely behind bars, charged and found guilty of horrible crimes. But before this happened, these 2 men were accused over and over again of sexual offences. The charges were dropped, the women weren't believed. Perhaps if events had happened differently, then these 2 men would have got away with it, would never have been found guilty. But they were, and certainly in the case of the former, this was helped because John Worbouys was named as a suspect. Naming him meant that more women were able to come forward, to accuse him and secure a conviction. With anonymity for the defendant this may not have happened and he could still be free to commit his crimes, unquestioned.

Most of us know a woman who has been raped. After all, globally, 1 in 3 women are sexually assaulted. We all know women who haven't gone to the police for fear they wouldn't be believed. We all know women who have gone to the police, only for charges to be dropped. We need to start tackling this problem.

I appreciate that to call someone a rapist after being cleared of an allegation is libel, but equally we know that 94% of allegations aren't false.We know that over 100,000 women are raped every year. Surely it is these 100,000 women who the government should be trying to help, should be trying to support.

The government are not offering anonymity to defendants in murder or paedophilia cases - what makes rape different? A false allegation of these other crimes would surely be as emotionally distressing as rape.

Sadly, we still live in a culture that blames rape on the victims. We blame women for being drunk, for wearing 'provocative' clothing, for having a relationship with the rapist, for flirting, for being a sex worker. We accuse women of lying, of asking for it, of regretting a sexual experience. By offering anonymity to the defendants, the government is tacitly supporting this rape myth culture, that the woman making the allegation should be doubted, should not be believed. Obviously everyone has the right to be innocent until proven guilty. But equally, victims have the right to be listened to and taken seriously.

I seriously hope the government reconsiders its position on anonymity for rape defendants. Lets focus our efforts on preventing rape. Lets educate young people about respect and consent. Lets fight against rape myths. Lets talk more openly about rape myths. Lets focus on stopping men raping. Lets encourage funding for rape crisis centres so that evidence can be collected swiftly, counselling and medical care can be given quickly. Lets have more training for officers to deal with rape allegations, and lets have a world where jurors go into court without thinking women are to blame for rape.

But please, lets start protecting the victims of rape. They are the women and men who need support. When the conviction rate reflects the true numbers of the crime, when rape is taken seriously in society, when rape myths are over, then maybe false allegations would be the bigger issue. But that day is not here yet.

Yours faithfully

Sian Norris

5 comments:

Anna said...

Thanks Sian, I have now sent this off. It never ends, does it! You're a feminist activist powerhouse!! xx

sian and crooked rib said...

ha! i do think i need a holiday...

Jo Harper said...

Great letter - can I use it for my local MP? Victim Support have also done some research http://www.victimsupport.org.uk/About%20us/Our%20news/2010/05/ICM%20Poll
regarding how difficult it is for rape victims to report the crime. As a volunteer for Victim Supoprt I'm going to check with their head office if they are also going to campaign against this government proposal.

Sue said...

Brilliant letter, Sian - I had already written to my MP but will send him this too! Ever thought of being a barrister? Eloquence and conviction - great stuff.
Sue

sianandcrookedrib said...

ha! i can write but if i tried to say that it would come out all stuttery and and and another thing...

go for it jo, that's what it is there for.