Rape Compensation Cut Overturned

// 12 August 2008

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A decision by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) to cut the compensation awarded to a woman who was raped after a night out has been overturned. Unbelievably, she had been told in writing that the reason for the reduction was that evidence showed her “excessive consumption of alcohol was a contributing factor in the incident” and the authority is said to have acknowledged that the rules were applied wrongly in 14 other cases.

As Noble Savage has pointed out, thank goodness someone has now seen sense.

Sandra McNeill, of Campaign to End Rape has has spoken about the attitudes inherent in the original error:

Old prejudices like if a woman is wearing a short skirt or acting in a certain way are still operational…They seem to think that all women should live like middle-class housewives of the 1950s. Nobody lives like that anymore. They are simply silly, silly prejudices… By reducing compensation because a woman has been drinking CICA is operating under those old prejudices.

Meanwhile, Gweem of Me and My Army paints a stark picture of what those mistakes really mean and, on a more disappointing note, Michael White of the Guardian says compensation is “not about blame” but then talks at length about “personal responsibility” and holds up examples of people who wear Rolex watches in rough parts of town and “bladdered stag party boys” who “get stroppy with the consul when they lose their passport in Riga.” (I agree with purplefluff’s comment that no-one actually goes around implying mugging victims were “asking for it” anyway. I’d say holding this up as a more neutral example of personal responsibility just serves to prove the point that it is the perpetrator of a crime who is to blame and not the victim!)

You can still listen to Kate Smuthwaite talking about this issue (along with the frightful Lynnette Burrows) on Tuesday’s Jeremy Vine show on Radio 2.

Thanks to Rebekah, Lewis and Jo for alerting us to reports on this story

Comments From You

JENNIFER DREW // Posted 12 August 2008 at 11:35 pm

Oh so the CICA made a mistake did they? Is the CICA going to write all other 14 survivors of rape and tell them ‘sorry we made a small mistake and will be sending you a cheque for the 25% deducted from your claim because you had the audacity to drink alcohol and therefore you were to blame for the man/men raping you.’ I think not. This is clever devious manipulation wherein one Government dept. claims ‘it is never an individual’s fault if she/he gets raped regardless of how much she/he has drunk.’ Yet the CICA says ‘oh yes it is and at least in one case the police have evidence it was the woman’s fault.

Sexual double standards again because when men drink to excess this is used to excuse their behaviour and actions yet when a woman drinks so much as a sip of alcohol she is branded as ‘wanting to be raped by a man/men.’

As for claims of ‘personal responsibility’ – well responsibility lies with those men who choose to commit rape and let’s not forget the operative word is ‘choose.’ Women do not ‘choose’ to be raped because only men can make that decision and only men can decide not to commit this crime. But who said justice is blind – because it most certainly is not blind but heavily biased in favour of excusing male sexual violence against women.

Noble Savage // Posted 13 August 2008 at 8:20 am

I’m glad you covered this. It absolutely shocked me that a formal organisation meant to deal compassionately and fairly with victims of crime could still be laying the blame at those victims’ feet. I sincerely hope that the other 14 women whose compensations were reduced are given the full amounts now that the ruling has been overturned.

Kath // Posted 13 August 2008 at 10:31 am

Michael White’s piece in the Guardian was appalling. Thank god their leader writer was more sensible, and Zoe Williams today.

Qubit // Posted 13 August 2008 at 11:14 am

I disagree that rape is the only crime where the victim is considered to be asking for it or told they were partly to blame by the police.

Three (female) friends of mine were in a busy shopping town in the middle of the day on a Saturday dressed as goths. Another group of teenagers (mixed sex) attacked them and they ended up running into a shop to escape where the shop assistants having seen what was going on hid them in the stock room. They had not provoked anyone. When the police were called to deal with the event they were told that dressing as goths increased their risk of attack and they shouldn’t do it in future.

Victim blaming is a serious problem but it is one that seems to be deeply ingrained. I think it is more common among women than men and I think women would apply the attitude to a greater number of crimes. I know I considered myself to blame when I was burgled for owning valuable items that someone might want.

I think it is a fairly prevailing attitude that women should seek to protect themselves from being victims in a way men shouldn’t. I have heard people say women are responsible for crimes committed against them because they walked home alone at night (in this case there was no evidence of alcohol so her existence was considered just as much an issue) when similar criticisms wouldn’t apply to men. This is a worrying attitude as it infringes on the right to get from A to B alone.

Jennifer-Ruth // Posted 13 August 2008 at 12:29 pm

The thing that upsets me the most about articles like Michael White’s and its supportive comments (thank god for commenters like purplefluff) is that they obviously identify more with the rapist than they do the victim.

Anna // Posted 13 August 2008 at 1:19 pm

The other women won’t get anything more because it’s been more than a year since their cases were dealt with.

I wish I’d known about this, I’dve sued the fuck out of the police for how they dealt with my case. It’s been more than a year now though so I can’t get anything.

Juliet // Posted 13 August 2008 at 1:47 pm

It said in The Times that CICA even tried to cut the compensation of a woman whose drink had been spiked, after which she was raped! She said she felt like it was back to the Seventies ‘she asked for it’. I wish I could say ‘unbelievable’….

George // Posted 13 August 2008 at 4:05 pm

Qubit – the thing is, where alcohol and rape are concerned, victim blaming can go so far as to mean that the victim isn’t even seen as a victim at all.

According to some people, if a woman has sex without consent whilst she is drunk, this is just because she got too drunk, or can’t remember saying yes, or is now ashamed of her outlandish behaviour.

I don’t think these sort of comments apply to victims of mugging, theft or physical assault.

Moreover, women who are the victims of rape are not only blamed for the crime, but also feel very ashamed of what has happened to them. I know that people might still be ashamed of being mugged – but surely it is far more difficult to tell people that you have been sexually assaulted? I think it is the combination of blaming and shaming that makes rape something that should be treated expecially carefully, and considered differently to other sorts of crime.

PurpleFluff // Posted 13 August 2008 at 5:20 pm

Oooooh the f-word linked to my comment! Yay!

I read this site regularly but have been lurking :-) – just wanted to say thanks for the agreement and support.

Some of the comments there are pretty depressing.

George has already made a great comment, but to Qubit: sure, if someone is mugged/ robbed people might say they were a bit foolish or careless (if they in fact were), but like I said in my comment, victim-blaming just doesn’t go on to the same extent.

You’re absolutely right that fear of crime in general is much greater in most women than most men, and that this serves to restrict women’s freedom, or make them feel more blamed if something does happen to them, as you say.

But undeniably, victim-blaming for rape/ sexual assault is at a whole other level.

Qubit // Posted 13 August 2008 at 5:55 pm

Yes, I agree the victim blaming in the case or rape or sexual assault is far worse than that for mugging. However I believe that women are frowned upon in general for trying to get themselves home alone and are held responsible for any crime committed against them.

The difference being in the case of mugging the criminal is considered equally if not more responsible while in the case of rape specifically date rape the criminal can be considered a victim of malicious comments and circumstance.

In the case of sexual assault or rape where there is no room to doubt of the crime I think the victim blaming would be to a similar degree. In the case where there is room to doubt, which is the majority of cases I think the women would often be considered to be lying. I would say this is different from victim blaming and is a denial of the crime itself.

Anna // Posted 13 August 2008 at 6:03 pm

what I find most disturbing about the comparisons to mugging is the whole “well, if you were wearing a rolex/left your car unlocked” etc – is this all we are now? the status of items to be thieved?

Rhona // Posted 15 August 2008 at 12:25 pm

Oh, I just made the mistake of reading the comments on the various CiF articles on this…now I am so angry I think my head may explode.

Back in my younger days (ho ho), I did a couple of stupid things when drunk, including leaving a bag alone in a club which contained my rent for that month in cash – all £350 of it. When I came back from the dancefloor, it had gone.

Now, the argument is this:

A) I shouldn’t have left the bag alone

B) I shouldn’t have taken it into an environment like a club (well, student union)

C) I should not have been drinking while carryng such a large sum of cash

What none of these arguments embraces, however, is the total LACK of a right that ANYBODY has to touch somebody else’s possessions, much less steal them.

I have, for example, been tempted to nick stuff – have I? Perhaps somebody had left something desirable in view and unguarded…did I take it? No, BECAUSE IT IS WRONG. JUST WRONG.

What kind of moral code do these f*ckers subscribe to that says that it is right to take something ‘just because it’s there’? If this extends to getting your jollies with any female who happens to just ‘be there’ and vulnerable in any way – be they drunk, asleep, underage, in a bloody wheelchair for god’s sake – then I really, really worry about the attitudes that exist in the world today.

So a woman got raped when she was wearing a short skirt/drunk/walking home alone? What about that other woman over there, who got raped when she was at home/with a partner/in a nunnery? Did the first woman somehow ‘deserve’ it more? Or could it be that a man raped her BECAUSE HE COULD?

This victim-blaming crap is just too much – as somebody pointed out, if men stopped raping women, then the problem would cease to exist tomorrow.

(Oh, and don’t get me started on the ‘what about TEH MENZ’ posse that seems to come galloping into town any time this kind of discussion is raised. However, forewarned is forearmed and I could really do with some useful points to present to this ar*eholes next time they appear on my radar. Could anybody please give me a link to stats on the incidence of male rape in the UK, please? Thanks in advance).

Qubit // Posted 15 August 2008 at 4:06 pm

The more I think about this the more I realise that it is different for rape although there is a tendency to victim blame for all crimes. There have been a lot of comments on the CIF site suggesting that once a woman has consented to sex with you once or with one person that night raping them is less serious because they agreed to sex even if it wasn’t with you at that time. I don’t think that is right to me. Consent is given on an individual basis. It seems to suggest to me that this isn’t so much victim blaming as denying that the woman in question is a victim at all.

I think some of these comments come from the fact that false rape cases are often given a lot of media attention and a lot of people, men and women get the impression from this the majority of rape cases are false.

I think rape of men is serious, in the context of women raping and sexual assaulting men the crime is often ignored far more than it should be. Personally I think this is for similar reasons that women are often blamed for rape and is to do with the myth of the uncontrollable male sexuality. The idea that a straight guy might not want sex with a woman is not considered.

In the case of male rape of men I think if the victim is straight there would be far less victim blaming than for a woman. I am not sure if the same would apply to a gay guy, I imagine they would be treated as harshly as women but I could be wrong.

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