Just finished watching The Unspeakable Crime: Rape on BBC1. I can’t tell you how angry it made me feel. It really hit home just how false the idea of women’s liberation is. If women truly were liberated, they’d be able to go where they want, do what they want and wear what they want without fear of retribution or violence. And when they experienced violence, they’d be able to report it to the police without fearing they would not be believed, would be blamed for their actions or somehow be held to account for the violence against them. Sadly this is not the case.
The Unspeakable Crime: Rape BBC1 4 June 2235 broadcast
According to statistics issued by the Ministry of Justice, the Home Office and the Office for National Statistics in January this year almost 100,000 women are raped each year; just 6% of women who report their perpetrators to the police will see their perpetrators get a conviction court. The reasons women do not report are many and complex. But myths around what rape is, what victims look like and assumptions around typical victim behaviour definitely come into play. A victim can be a sex worker, a woman who is drunk, a daughter, a sister, a wife and mother. Perpetrators can be colleagues, husbands, boyfriends, ex-partners, friends and family members. Contrary to popular belief a woman or girl is far more likely to be assaulted by a man she knows than a man she doesn’t.
Perhaps one of the most harmful myths is the prevalence of false reports of rape. A report released in March this year by the crown prosecution service, that followed allegations of rape over a 17 month period between 2011 and 2012, found there were 5,651 prosecutions for rape and just 35 prosecutions for making a false allegation of rape over the same period (equivalent to less than 1 per cent if you combine the numbers). There are false reports of each and every type of crime but the general assumption that there are higher numbers of false reports of rape is exceptionally harmful. It makes survivors of sexual assault fear they will not be believed, deterring them from reporting the violence they have experienced. This, in turn, provides a safety net for the men who perpetrate sexual violence against women: where is the incentive to stop hurting women if there are no legal or other consequences for doing so?
So how do we overcome the problem? We need to take a look at how society, politicians, the judicial process etc, and that means each and everyone of us, view rape and sexual assault. We need to understand what “real rape” is and challenge our views on victim-survivors and their behaviour. We need to accept that victim-survivors are not responsible for the violence against them, that rape and sexual assault is carried out by men who intentionally set out to harm women, deliberately targeting women when they are vulnerable, trusting or not able to say no. Most importantly we need rape not to be an unspeakable crime. We need to be brave, confront the problem openly and take away the taboo.
If you would like to watch the documentary it is on BBC iplayer for he next 5 days:
For more information about rape myths visit: http://www.rapecrisis.org.uk/mythsampfacts2.php
Crown prosecution service report: http://www.cps.gov.uk/publications/research/perverting_course_of_justice_march_2013.pdf
Ministry of Justice, the Home Office and the Office for National Statistics research: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/100000-assaults-1000-rapists-sentenced-shockingly-low-conviction-rates-revealed-8446058.html