‘Rape might as well be legal’

// 1 February 2007

So few rapists get put behind bars that it might as well be legal, says Julie Bindel in the Guardian.

If a man commits a rape, then he has, on average, a less than 1% chance of being convicted. Those most likely to result in a conviction are classic stranger rapes, involving a man with a knife who breaks into the victim’s home or drags her into the bushes.

Bindel identifies a number of loopholes which reveal just how extensively the system needs to be reformed:

Elizabeth Harrison is the manager of the Whitechapel Haven, one of three centres in London that provide a 24-hour service to help anyone who has been recently raped or sexually assaulted. She is all too aware that many rape victims are not believed if they have been drinking. “On the one hand, doctors we use at the Haven are saying these women are too drunk to consent to a medical examination,” says Harrison, “but the court is saying that she was not too drunk to consent to sex.”

Bindel also puts under the microscope the practice of charging women, when the case against their alleged rapist falls apart:

Some women who report rape risk heavy penalties in the civil courts. Lucy Green is one of a number of women sued for slander in the past decade after the men they accused were either not charged or acquitted in court. “All of a sudden I was in court as a defendant, not a victim of rape, which I had been prepared to endure. I was so scared I wet myself on several occasions during cross-examination.”

The jury was divided and gave a hung verdict. “If he had won I would have been forced to make a public apology and pay him money for raping me.”

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