Monday, 15 March 2010

Assistance to Rape Victims

A Government review has called for widespread changes in the support available for rape victims. What I find surprising in this day and age is that Lady Stern's report seem to be based on the concept that only women are the victims of rape. The trauma associated with this form of attack is extensive and has similarities with the claims made for the results of the sex act being visited on females.

The recommendations include offering every rape victim a specialist adviser to help them recover after an attack. This would require both male and female specialists if gender issues are addressed. Lady Stern is a prison reformer; note she seeks to reform how prisoners are treated and not how they should be made to pay for their transgressions. She accepts that With rape, it is always going to be difficult to be sure that you'll be able to prove it to the jury beyond reasonable doubt. A lot of victims accepted that. What they felt was really important was not in the end whether the Police get a conviction; they said they still felt they wanted to be believed. I cannot see this point. There is a lot of doubt about all verdicts and, wrong as it may be, many onlookers make up their own minds. If there is no guilty finding, does it mean beyond all reasonable doubt that the complainant was a white stiletto-wearing slag?

Other recommendations included having someone to explain police procedures, provide a link between the victim and detectives, and support the victim in court. Similar schemes have been piloted in some parts of England and Wales but we are not told of the results where such assistance is provided. Forensic medical evidence should be gathered by the NHS, not the police. Not quite sure what this means; currently, such evidence is gathered by the Police surgeon and not PC Plod with his bucket and spade. If the suggestion is that NHS means someone at a A & E department, I'll say now that this would be a total nightmare. Most forces have Rape Suites and there are other facilities

Another proposal was for victims to have their own special lawyer in court, alongside the prosecutor and defendant's representative.

Quite what benefit this would provide is not clear. If there purely as an advisor - OK but were this counsel to get involved in examination of witnesses and accused there is the risk that their questioning might just provide a wider stage for denigration and smearing the character of the woman.

One interesting statistic in the report was that nearly 60% of those charged with rape are convicted. What we do not seem to have details of is the proportion of complaints that get to charges.

This is all rather strange to an old dinosaur like me. In the period of early 50s to mid 70s when I was an Army investigator, almost all rape complaints were handled by males. We just did not have sufficient female detectives who were adequately trained. Certainly, one would be present when the interview with the victim took place. I never had any objections or reservations from anyone claiming rape regarding my asking them the most delicate and probing questions. I suppose, looking back, they were too relieved to have someone listen to them in a sympathetic and adult manner. There was no pussy-footing around. The common situation was that the attacker was a boy-friend or date who was known to the woman and it was for her benefit that any chance he might be able to say that he was led on be evaluated before he did so in public. I suppose what was behind what I think was my success rate in dealing with such offences was that I firmly held the opinion that it was the woman's right to object and control what was happening to her. Even if she said No half way through a sexual act she had willingly - even eagerly - entered into then that had to be respected.

Women were different animals back then anyway. We read accounts now of how women's lives are permanently ruined after rape. I never saw such results - much remorse and fear but no sign that this was lasting to the extent we hear of now. The Solicitor General's comments on the report included "We want all victims to feel confident that when they come forward and report rapes it will be taken seriously and they will be treated with dignity and respect," I cannot understand this comment - are we all so lacking in basic humanity that it is deemed necessary to define dignity and respect as an ideal and not a given?

Sex is now more freely available than ever it was in 'my day'. Then, the female attitude and concern was to hold onto their halfpenny. Now, we have single mothers all over the place. Nothing really wrong in that if it is her free will and choice but the idea that modern (liberated) women need more consideration and support than their predecessors
regarding rape allegations is not one I fully comprehend.

Still concerned at the gender issue. The physical act in male rape is almost identical although differently defined in law. The shock and physical consequences of a male being abused by anal penetration must be the same but it seems they are ignored in Lady Stern's considerations.

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