Wednesday, 9 July 2008

The R Word

Another month, another government initiative regarding rape (Committed against women, obviously, since men can't be rape victims).

Rape is a quite singular, abhorrent crime. But it is a difficult one, something I have spoke of before and will no doubt speak of again. Despite some pop cultural themes, rape seldom occurs in dark alleys or wind-swept parks. A woman is more likely to be raped by someone she knows, a partner, ex-partner or 'friend' or some kind.

That said, there is a link between the accused and victim. This link can cloud cases and make them difficult to follow, and make prosecution even harder. A hypothetical case could go something like this, and forgive the simplicity for the moment: Jill accuses Jack of rape. Jack denies any rape occurred. Police investigate the surrounding case, interview people etc. and it turns out Jack and Jill were in a relationship at the time. Relationships are pretty private, so it is Jill's word set against Jack's.

I feel for Inspector Knacker, at this point. Rape is not a clear cut crime, like theft or assault, for example. If Jill accused Jack of stealing some material goods, and he denied such theft, the police finding such goods in Jack's house would count as evidence. There is no such clear cut evidence for rape. If Jack and Jill were in a relationship at the time, much vaunted DNA evidence is pretty moot. Although bruising and other injuries could count as something more of a smoking gun (bruising on the wrists, for example, insinuating some sort of forced holding/restraint), some of these injuries are not clear cut proof, either. Vaginal tearing, for example, can occur during consensual sex, too.

This paints a grim picture of any possible rape prosecution. I support the idea of placing more emphasis on solving cases of rape, and specialist squads are not a terrible idea. Some organisations blame Inspector Knacker for not taking rape seriously. These squads/teams could help reinstall a little faith in the system, and encourage more rape victims to come forward. But I can't help feel this is yet another policy in a long list of ideas which are never fully funded, followed up and backed up. Which is a damned shame.

Edit: Mark Easton makes some great points here, including statistics. He ends on the idea that policing alone can't change conviction rates and even attitudes towards rape, and I couldn't agree with him more. Considering rape within marriage was only made into a crime recently, the country - not just Inspector Knacker - should be ashamed of itself.

Edit ii: Interestingly enough, Mark Easton points out that rape is counted as:

"the penetration of the vagina or anus without consent and penetration of the mouth by a penis without consent."

Why rape against males still doesn't exist in a legal concept, I have no idea in that respect.

1 comment:

Archivist said...

You have correctly characterized rape and the difficulties attendant to any prosecution of this vile crime. It is a terribly difficult crime to prosecute because the act constituting rape is identical to an act that, under the vast majority of circumstances, is fundamental to human existence and is, in fact, desired by the woman. In a classic "he said-she said" dispute, nobody knows for certain what happened -- except we know that one of them has committed an act that is criminal: either rape or falsely reporting a rape.

I wish that we could have one Web site that looked at rape and all it's attendant issues objectively. I am a life-long Demoncrat in the U.S. who became involved in false rape claims through my legal practice. It struck me how easy it is to make a false and I was initially relieved when I read that such claims are extremely rare. I later stumbled upon a study by a Prof. Eugene Kanin that alarmed me (in his study he found 41% recantation rate). I learned that because of other studies, but not that one, he is regarded as a feminist hero, so I dug deeper.

What I found was that the entire issue had become so gender politicized, that the truth is almost impossible to come by. My Web site is devoted to trying to get false claims back in the public discourse about rape because I believe that not only are innocent men being unfairly victimized by a crime that is politically incorrect to discuss, but if false claims were punished more severely, true rape victims would be believed more readily. I, of course, only favor prosecuting false claims that are undeniably false -- not a dispute as to whether she said no, or he went too far. For example, if the woman recants and the police are satisfied that the recantation is legitimate.

As it is, we live in a culture that allows a young woman to destroy a young man on the basis of an accusation. My liberal, Democratic, objective research shows such claims are not uncommon. Sadly. The numbers are elusive, but 9% to closer to 50% seems more likely (and please understand many of these "claims" are not targeting innocent men -- they blame strangers, etc. so many are not as dangeous as a jilted woman seeking revenge -- althought that happens). Few claims by a private citizen, without any corroboration, could deprive someone of his liberty so easily. No one could plausibly assert that I robbed a bank; but vast numbers of young men are at risk of being accused of rape.

I would like to see more protection for the presumed innocent young men accused of this crime, until there is a conviction. The accuser retains her anonymity but the accused's name is splashed all over the news; she can send a man away for 30 years on a false claim and in most jurisdictions she is only subject to a six month to two year sentence if, in fact, she lied and her lie is discovered; and the crime of false reporting generally has a short statute of limitations so if her lie has its intended effect and an innocent man is sent away for 10 years, she likely can't be prosecuted if her lie isn't discovered until he's out.

None of this is an apology for rape or rapists. None of this is victim blaming because no woman (or man) deserves to be raped -- no matter what they wear or how drunk they are. Rape and false reporting of rape are diametrical opposites and we can oppose both without fear of hurting victims of either. But why, oh why, is this issue so politicized that we can't have an objective, mature discussion about it without being accused of either misogyny or misandry?

I wait for the day when I can convert my Web site to a discussion of the entire panoply or sexual assault issues. Until then, I will beat the drum and try to get false claims back into the public discourse.