Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Rape, she screamed

 When I was an investigator, one of the bees in my bonnet was the subject of rape. Women who complained of rape were regarded as slightly fantasist or not truly satisfactory complainants and witnesses. In many cases, they were convinced that their allegation was unlikely to lead to any conviction and would be embarrassing to them personally. Investigators were mostly male and their own prejudices and doubts got into the approach to the enquiry. I was unable to see why sexual violation was different to any other serious assault and dealt with rape allegations as all other inquiries. I think I had a good record in taking cases to court and a high percentage of convictions.
There does not seem to have been much of a change in the way that rape is regarded. The executive summary in a enquiry

  • Incidence: At least 47,000 adult women are raped every year in the UK.

  • Perpetrators: The majority of perpetrators are known to the victim.

  • Reporting: There has been a progressive increase in the number of rapes reported to the police for more than 20 years; during 2005/6 13,712 rapes were reported.

  • Conviction: In 2004 the conviction rate for rape was 5.3% - the lowest rate on record.

  • Support services: There are only 15 Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARCs) for victims of rape.

  • Public attitudes: Nearly a third of people (30%) say a woman was partially or totally responsible for being raped if she was drunk

  • International: A study found the only European country with a lower conviction rate than the UK was Ireland.

    A comment on the matter was  In no other crime is the victim subject to so much scrutiny during an investigation or at trial; nor is the potential for victims to be re-traumatised during these processes as high in any other crime.” (HMCPS & HMIC, 2007)

I have just been reading "The Diary of an On-Call Girl" which was written by a woman police officer using the pseudonym WPC E E Bloggs. It gives a no holds barred view of today's policing; not very comfortable or reassuring. There's a revelatory chapter on how rape is handled at local police level: "Sex, Lies, and CCTV". She writes of a rape inquiry "Mandy wanders out into the street and out into the night. I watch her go and wonder what possessed her to go to a party in a strange house with a man she hardly knew and then agree to go upstairs with him?" 

PC Bloggs then describes how the police would act if a nice girl from a good family is snatched off the street and raped. Great police effort would be expended. But, she claims, that the usual rape victim is a girl like Mandy. Vulnerable, inarticulate and lacking the verbal skills to explain herself - or act in a sensible manner on a night out. The rapist is generally someone they know, maybe an ex boyfriend. They do not struggle or cry out. They receive no injuries. There are no witnesses or cctv. They have been attacked before and they may not report this one for days or even weeks afterwards.

Does this mean it didn't happen? It really has no import either way. Does the manner of the attack mean that the chances of proving the offence in court are zero. Probably. But women like Mandy keep coming forward, ever-hopeful that some mystery witness will be discovered in the corner of the crime scene or the prosecution barrister will do aIronside in court.

He won't. A lot of police officers believe that most rape allegations are simply made up. She is sure some are.

Then comes the really striking part of Bloggs' account. She is a serving police officer of good character, who does not drink much or take drugs; yet, the sad truth is that if she were raped other than by a total stranger she is not sure she would bother to report it.

We have seen the film of how some young females end up after binge drinking. The 'kiss and tell' magazines reveal just how ready some females are for sex with ships that pass in the night. Add these to what Bloggs says and it may eplain why rape is treated as the summary above states. A sad state of affairs.

A little more background on Mandy.

Mandy met a guy at Fleas Nightclub and a week later decided to go to a party at his mate's house. She doesn't know where the house is.

Mandy went into a bedroom with the guy. He kissed her but when he tried to take off her top she said no, at which point he had sex with her against her will.

She did not struggle as she feared he would murder her, and she did not scream as she was embarrassed. She was also raped two years ago, she tells me, but she didn't report that attack.

A detective turns up. 'So you met this guy at a nightclub? How exactly did you start talking?'

'I think I said, "You got any coke?"'

'I see. And when you went to this party, how much had you drunk?'

'About seven beers.'

'Is that a lot for you?'

'Are you joking? I usually have ten or 12. I had those seven at home.'

'Do you take any medication?'

'Yeah, Prozac. I've been depressed.'

'Why's that?'

'Dunno.' She holds out her arms to show cuts on the insides of her elbows. 'The kids have been getting me down.'

'How many children have you got?'


'And the father?'

'Jodie's dad is dead, Ryan's is a deadbeat. We broke up when Charlene was born. Charlie's old man is just drunk all the time.'

'And was it one of these guys who raped you two years ago?'

'No, that was Matt. He got me on to crack when I was pregnant with Ryan.'

Now and again, a nice girl is attacked by some b****** in a balaclava. She'll be believed and supported and when, as is likely, her rapist is found he will be brought to justice (or sent to jail for a couple of years, anyway).

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