There have been a number of broadcasts recently on rape, THE most controversial and difficult subject that faces the modern Judicial System.
It is convenient to look as this as the victim’s “problem”, when the reality is that the opposite is true and surely the biggest scandal is how the system is weighted so heavily against the person who is violated in the most heinous of ways.
It is hard to achieve any conclusions writing as a man but here goes….
In an ideal world “No” should mean exactly that, no matter what the circumstances leading up that moment. It should have no bearing on the outcome whether or not the subject of the attack was engaged in foreplay, how intoxicated they were or other such issues that are used to make it the victim’s “fault”. A guy should stop and that’s that. Anyone overstepping is a rapist.
These scenarios are not a million miles away from most of our experiences as men, especially if you went to University, or moved out at a young age where matters are less constrained than would otherwise be the case.But we don’t live in Utopia and I have to say that if I had been a juror on “The Verdict” (BBC2) then I would have come to the same conclusion, that the girl WAS raped but I couldn’t be absolutely certain. You can’t convict on probability and I concede that I would rather a guilty person go free, than an innocent party receive jail. Controversial, but that’s how I see it.
“The Verdict” took a fictional case and had it tried by professionals in front of a “celebrity” jury, though quite what Jeffrey Archer was doing there is another matter entirely.
A girl, and her friend go willingly to the room of a footballer. She “gets off” with him and the friend leaves in high dudgeon.
She then decides a mistake has been made but is then subjected to an attack, compounded by the introduction of another male protagonist.
There are various sub plots involving an audio tape of the girl telling her friend all about the attack, which gets sold to a tabloid, but the over riding subject is whether or not she consented.
The Jury found 11-1 in favour of the defendant due to the fact that couldn’t be 100% sure.
According to the Audit Office there were nearly 12,000 allegations of rape made in 2005, which represents, if year on year statistics are true roughly 10% of cases where the victim feels they have been violated. The low report rate is due to a combination of factors; shame, a lack of confidence in the Police, and most crucially a total fear of the Court procedure.
Of these 12,000 only 14% made it to trial meaning that only 655 cases resulted in a successful prosecution and of those that did, nearly half were where the attacker pleaded guilty, obviating the need for an adversarial situation in Court .
This is an absolute scandal, but for the life if me I can’t see a way in which these figures can be turned around as ingrained attitudes within the Police Service and the intimidatorary nature of the Judicial System weight everything against the victim.
The Labour Government has taken a raft of measures to adjust the balance, for example the sexual history of the victim can’t be discussed, video evidence etc, but rates remain stubbornly low and we need a complete sea change in attitudes towards women to achieve progress.Women are treated as Second Class Citizens all over the world, and here in the UK females still only earn 2/3rds of what men trouser, only one of the top 200 companies listed on the Stock Exchange has a female MD and women are grossly under represented in Parliament and indeed all the top Professions are dominated by White Public School educated men.
Then there is the way that women are portrayed in the mass media, feeding the image of the perfect body and look when the average dress size is a 16, making girls feel inadequate and lacking in confidence.
Plus Page 3. Where do we even begin a sensible discussion on that issue?
But The Scum and other “news” papers are symptomatic of the objectification of women as targets for sexual conquest, and whilst it is true that rape is about power rather than sex, this and porn in general has the effect of desensitising the user and subliminally causing a disrespect for women in general.
“True Voices of Rape” (More 4, repeated this week on C4) represented a brave attempt to get behind the effects on the victims as well as exploring the motives of the perpetrators.
Taking it’s inspiration from Alan Bennett’s sublime “Talking Heads” style of monologue, the writers use the actual words of the protagonists taken from interviews with the Police, counsellors and other parties to give us a real insight.
In “Perfect Day” Emily Woolf plays a wedding guest who under the influence of alcohol and having retired for the night, is raped by a fellow guest. The case doesn’t even get beyond first base due to the neanderthal attitude of the Boys in Blue. No female Officers were available for THREE whole days by which time the victim was too traumatised to go on.
The second story is Binge Town, in which Matthew Dunster plays Terry, a rapist, who confesses his story from prison. Through Terry’s story we gain an insight into the casual and detached approach he had to the rape of a 59 year-old woman who he met on the way home from a night out.
He is behind bars and now recognises that the woman’s life has been irrevocably damaged, but the key to his conviction is that Terry realises that his violent upbringing, chronic alcoholism and inability to control himself has led to this event.
He is latently intelligent and can rationalise, to some extent what has occurred and thus pleaded guilty, but had it denied it I suspect he would have walked due to the circumstances surrounding the case.
Sophie Okonedo is Jane in Bank Holiday, the final story in the trilogy of hard-hitting monologues. Having left her partner the day before their wedding, we hear the harrowing story of how she ends up in a hostel, where she meets a man who becomes obsessed with her, eventually stalking, entrapping and violently raping her, despite an injunction against him.
But this is clear cut due to build up being in the public domain.
Good on C4 for producing these searingly written, but sensitively delivered pieces of work, but until we address the root causes and seek real equality, we will remain in this dreadful situation where less than 1% of attacks are punished.