Dismissive attitudes towards rape victims persist in the Met

// 16 March 2009

The Guardian reports that despite recent changes in police policy, rape complaints were repeatedly filed as ‘Crime Related Incidents (CRIs)’ rather than as alleged criminal offences in six Metropolitan boroughs last year. CRIs are rarely investigated further, meaning that scores of rape cases may well have been ignored by officers, and were left off official crime statistics. Many of the cases in question involved a woman who feared she may have been raped, but was unsure what happened – the kind of cases where the woman may have been drugged. This is a shocking failure of duty on the part of the officers concerned, belying both a continued belief in the myth that women frequently lie about being raped, and, according to the Guardian’s sources, a desire to try and meet government crime reduction targets:

“It is shocking this has happened for such a serious offence. It could be a reflection of the pressure the police are under from the Home Office to improve the clear-up rate and reduce reported crime.”

“If you get a case where there is no evidence, and record it as a rape, some people will say we would never have a chance of hitting targets. My view is you might not be able to prove it, but record it, investigate it, get evidence.”

The latter attitude is now police policy following failure to properly record allegations made by victims of the taxi driver rapist John Worboys, and the increased prevalence of officers taking rape victims seriously resulted in a 25% increase in recorded rapes in London over the past year, so we can only hope that continued focus on the way in which rape victims are treated will root out the remaining offenders. Of course, taking the victim seriously enough in order to record the incident as a crime is only the first step in achieving justice for rape victims, and the likelihood of these women seeing their attacker brought to justice is appalling small. Depressingly, former senior Met officer Brian Paddick sees little chance that things will change in the current climate:

“There is not the political will in government and the Home Office to put resources into place, which the offence requires, to bring people to justice.”

Comments From You

Politicalguineapig // Posted 16 March 2009 at 3:10 pm

Is there any reason why rape centers just can’t give the victims a gun? I hate to endorse do-it-yourself justice, but I think that’s what’s needed

JENNIFER DREW // Posted 16 March 2009 at 6:43 pm

Ah yes, achieving HO targets is far more important than having police actually investigate cases of rape. How much better to rename cases of male on female rape as CRI’s and in this way police are able to meet HO targets. What does this say about government ministers claiming to be ‘serious’ about male sexual violence against women? Why it means nothing because targets and number crunching outweighs women’s rights to be treated with respect and have their reports fully investigated.

This is why the government’s consultation on male violence against women is so important. Responding to this consultation will enable individuals to raise the issue of why male sexual violence against women and children is deemed a ‘non-issue’ and why police resources are not being implemented in order to reduce the numbers of male rapists being acquitted. Currently 95% of males charged with rape are acquitted. Now I await the anticipated rape apologists coming out in force and claiming the real victims are those men who are falsely accused of rape. There is innumerable research evidence which shows women rape survivors who cannot recall 100% whether or not a man/men raped them is because such cases involve the woman being drugged or else due to fact she was incapacitated through alcohol and a male rapist took advantage of this situation. A fact commonly overlooked is that a crime is a crime irrespective of whether or not a victim could have prevented the crime from occurring. If this were the case, then victims of burglery, mugging, common assault etc. would all be held partially accountable if they were unable to prove they had taken steps to prevent such a crime occurring.

But rape is the one crime wherein the female survivor’s behaviour, dress, character is minutely examined because she not the perpetrator is held responsible for causing the sexual violence. Which is why Worboys was able to commit so many rapes with impunity – because he knew rape is the easiest crime to commit and the one least likely to be investigated thoroughly by police.

Rape culture? What rape culture!

Lisa // Posted 17 March 2009 at 9:16 am

Whilst the Worboys case is disturbing it would be dangerous to us all to draw the conclusion, as some have done (elsewhere in the media too), that the criminal law itself needs to change with respect to rape and sexual assault.

Rape is not the only crime where the behaviour of the victim is commented on – e.g. street robbery. Being alone in the dark, in a dangerous neighbourhood and under the influence of drugs or alcohol and then having your bag taken off you or held up to hand over valuables also results in ‘you should have known better’ comments from the world at large and a ‘well we’ll never catch him but i suppose you need a crime number for the insurance paperwork’ response from the police.

Drugs and alcohol consumption are also used to powerful effect by Defence Counsel to undermine the reliability of all witness evidence (victim or eyewitness) for all offences. The Prosecution counsel must prove that the Defendant was the person who committed the offence beyond all reasonable doubt. In other words, as Judges remind juries time and time again, you must be sure that this person did commit this offence – not that an offence was committed but it could have been someone else, not that an offence wasn’t committed but the Defendant’s behaviour was offensive (offensive or antisocial behaviour isn’t necessarily a criminal offense) and not that you’re not sure exactly what happened. The reason the standard of proof is so high is that citizens (male and female) have fought since the Magna Carta to limit the Crown’s powers to imprison or punish. Before the Magna Carta (in France before the French Revolution !) the State could imprison without trial for an indefinite period of time (Guantanamo Bay style) – men and women.

Women as well as men have benefited from limiting the power of the State. Those of you who wish to change the burden of proof, do you really want to go back to a situation where we (women as well as men) can be imprisoned on little or no evidence ?

Whilst the Worboys case illustrates the negligence of the individual police officers concerned and Labour Party obsession with ‘image’ over reality (‘Targets, Targets Targets’), these issues are not confined to rape or sexual assault on females and must be seen in the wider context of the relationship between State and Citizen.

Having weighed up the risks of the Worboys of this world and the risks of the UK Government’s drift to disempowering individual citizens, I draw the line at changing the law and am happy to leave it at improving police evidence gathering procedures and sharing of intelligence. A vast reduction in the amount of paperwork would help too. Over the last few decades pushing paper around and typing at a computer have really inhibited individual police officers ability to do their jobs and is a major factor that many leave. Unfortunately the more initiative and intelligence they have the more likely they are to become frustrated and bored. So you end up with fewer good ones and more of the muppets !

Carrie // Posted 18 March 2009 at 4:27 pm

The problem is we accept certain “harmless” depictions of women, creating a slippery slope towards sexual assaults. Lapdancing clubs and violent pornography pave the way for rapists.

The sex industry and the page three element within the press contribute to rapes. They re-enforce the impression that women are objects, nothing more.

Convicted rapists are, as a condition of parole, not supposed to be in possession of pornographic material or be seen around or in sex clubs. This is a recognised contributing factor in re-enforcing, perhaps even creating a rapist’s attitude towards sex.

Object’s campaign against lapdancing clubs explains the link more clearly than I can: http://www.object.org.uk/LapDancingResources.html

Shea // Posted 18 March 2009 at 9:47 pm

@ Lisa- I have a problem with your argument– consent is used in rape as a defence whereas it is not in robbery. This shifts the burden of evidence onto the defendant and this is why the victims sexual history/ sobriety/ attire are brought up- to cast doubt on whether s/he did or didn’t consent.

Drugs and alcohol only undermine witness testimony where they are relevant– they never prevent conviction for murder grievous bodily harm or a multitude of other offences against the person (because it is largely irrelevant whether or not the victim is intoxicated).

The standard of proof also varies, in many property cases it is on the balance of probability, not beyond all reasonable doubt, which has a much higher threshold, to reflect the seriousness of the crime.

Leaving this aside, you are equating a property crime, robbery with one of the most grevious offences against the person. Whatever annoyance or fear involved in robbery it is nothing to the permanent devastation wrought on the victims of rape. Further, most people can write off a robbery, be more careful next time not to carry valuables, accept you are one of the statistics and not feel too betrayed if no one is caught. To go through a court case (or not even that) where the blame is squarely laid on your shoulders and then not only not see your rapist convicted but know that they are out there walking the streets, preparing to do it again, must be utterly horrifying. If the law can’t and won’t protect women- what is to be done? Where is the upholding of the social contract ?

You say -“The reason the standard of proof is so high is that citizens (male and female) have fought since the Magna Carta to limit the Crown’s powers to imprison or punish.” But this incorrect, the standard of proof is high to reflect the seriousness of the crime. Here it is not a case of limiting the Crown’s powers, all criminal cases are taken on by the crown, the crime is against the crown and her subjects hence the R v Smith (i.e Regina, the Queen,) not the individual victim.

It is not about limiting the powers to punish or imprison— it is about redressing and atrocious crime and keeping future (potential) victims safe. To my mind the only other way to do this is vigilantism, which whilst appealing when viewing the rape stats, has a far greater potential for abuse, anarchy and miscarriages of justice.

(I would also say that we are back at the point where people can be imprisoned without due process, as unfortunately Guatanamo bay demonstrates)

Pip // Posted 19 March 2009 at 2:06 pm

“Now I await the anticipated rape apologists coming out in force and claiming the real victims are those men who are falsely accused of rape.” Await it, its all that can be heard in the Mens Rights forum currently. Because according to them more women cry false rape in an attempt to further criminalise male sexuality than are the genuine victims of rape. They say, women are oppressing men through this phenomena and that feminism is to blame.

I personally believe too many people are crying rape when none has occured and I can’t think of anything worse for the real survivors of rape than the chance that they will be doubted for coming forward. My heart goes out to the genuine victims every time.

Rape applogists are in full force and claiming that the real crime is innocent men going to prison for eight years for a crime they did not commit. This is a problem, and I have every sympathy for these men who genuinely are victims of a different crime. However, the utter lack of understanding that rape does happen on account of the Mens Rights forum is unacceptable.

It is obvious the “Only Men Can Stop Rape” campaign comes from a very dysfunctional perspective, that does more harm than it does any good. Rapists rape people. But I am afraid to say, that feminism to some extent really has painted men in a light that we yet have to see the reaction to. And I think this campaign has been the ultimate way in which we, as feminists have betrayed men.

Untill the truth of how many rapes and how many false rapes are established, independant of feminist and university campuses then we will neverbe able to know the facts of what we are dealing with or how we can confront it. I do not expect this to happen over night, but I do know that both men and women need to look out for their safety more than ever, because both are becoming victims of crimes that could be reduced significantly.

Ruth Eames // Posted 19 March 2009 at 4:44 pm

I have just visited the Object, thanks for the link Carrie, and felt like I’d jsut taken my first breath of fresh air in a looong time!

So glad I stumbled upon The F-Word today.

Laura // Posted 19 March 2009 at 7:12 pm

Pip,

You may ‘believe’ that too many people are crying rape when it hasn’t happened, but the truth is that false rape claims are just as infrequent as any other false crime allegations – around 2%. If you wanted to get back at a man (as most people who claim women frequently cry rape allege), would you really choose a method where you are unlikely to be believed by most people in the first place, where – should you be lucky enough that the police decide to take your claim forward – you will have your character and sexual history attacked in court and have to pay out a large sum in legal fees with a less than 6% chance that the guy you are trying to get convicted of raping you will actually be found guilty, meaning there’s a 94% chance that you will be left branded a liar and he will come out looking like a martyr? I find it incomprehensible that anyone with any common sense could think that this happens frequently – just because this kind of scenario is portrayed in soaps and films, doesn’t mean it’s the norm in real life.

Why does the ‘Only men can stop rape’ campaign come from a dysfunctional perspective? Considering 98% of rapists are men I think this statement is perfectly logical. Unless she manages to overpower her attacker, there is nothing a woman can do to stop herself being raped – rape happens to all kinds of women and girls in all kinds of situations at the hands of all kinds of men – the only common factor here is that it is men who are committing the crime. When men choose to respect women and stop raping, rape will stop – it’s as simple as that. The majority of men who don’t rape can help by challenging rape apologists and victim blaming attitudes among their peers. You can see from this post that this is a massive problem:

/blog/2009/02/rape_myths_stil

As for how many rapes happen – the British Crime Survey is carried out independently of feminist and university campuses, and is more reliable than official crime stats as it asks people whether they have been victims of crime, regardless of whether they reported it. Findings from the self-completion surveys from 2007/2008 are not yet available, but the 2004/2005 results show that 4.8% of women over the age of 16 have experienced rape or attempted rape; 22.7% have experienced sexual assault or attempted sexual assault.

http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/pdfs06/rdsolr1206.pdf

That’s 100,000s of women being raped and sexually assaulted, and 100.000s of men raping and sexually assaulting them. While these men are a minority, it is a significant minority: this is not a case of feminists demonising men, but of feminists highlighting a genuine problem.

JenniferRuth // Posted 19 March 2009 at 7:20 pm

Pip, you say:

“And I think this campaign has been the ultimate way in which we, as feminists have betrayed men.”

WTF? Saying that men can stop rape is betraying men? Personally, I’d say that rapists are the ones betraying men AND women.

“Untill the truth of how many rapes and how many false rapes are established”

We already know the truth. False rapes claims make up the same proportion of false claims for any other crime. 2-3%

http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/pdfs05/hors293.pdf

Quote:

“False allegations have been one of the most contested areas within law enforcement responses to rape, with research suggesting rates are no higher than for other crimes sitting alongside perceptions of police officers and the media who take the opposite view.”

The truth is that there is no epidemic of false rape reporting, but there is an epidemic of rape – because men think they are entitled to stick their penises anywhere they want. MRA activists argue with lies about rape because they want the status quo to continue. They think womens bodies belong to them and fabricate fiction about women crying rape simply because they don’t want to be labeled as rapists.

And we’re the ones betraying men?

JENNIFER DREW // Posted 19 March 2009 at 11:20 pm

Rapists do not rape ‘people’ rather they predominantly rape women and children. Another fact is that only men can stop rape not women, which is why The White Ribbon Campaign was set up by pro-feminist men who refuse to accept male sexual violence against women and children is ‘natural and inevitable.’

Until such time as men accept and respect all women’s and girls’ right of sexual autonomy and ownership of their personhood rape will continue to be denied/justified or excused. The dominant masculine scripts inform men and boys they need not take responsibility for their sexual behaviour or actions because it is women and girls who are supposedly responsible for ensuring males do not commit sexual crimes against them. But this neatly overlooks the fact women and girls do not have equal social and economic power as men and boys. Add on the fact male/female sexual scripts promote male sexual aggression and belief men have a right to ignore women’s sexual autonomy it is not surprising rape is the easiest crime to commit with the least likelihood of conviction.

The legal system too is skewed in favour of men charged with rape. For clear and concise analysis of how the legal system reinforces misogynistic views concerning female sexuality and supposedly innate female lack of creditability read Carnal Knowledge by Sue Lees. Or read Sexual Assault and The Justice Gap: A Question of Attitude by Jennifer Temkin and Barbara Krahe. Abyss2hope blog is a factual one and demonstrates how rape myths reinforce widespread belief men must never be held accountable for their sexual actions. Or read The Macho Paradox by Jackson Katz, a well-respected US activist who believes men must stand up and challenge widespread male violence against women. Challenging male violence against women is not man-hating but this term like denials of racism or homophobia is used in an attempt to silence the many women and men who refuse to remain silent whilst so much cruelty and callous indifference is being meted out to women survivors of men’s sexual violence.

But denial is far easier than actually reading and learning how and why rape is a global issue and why so many men believe their male sex right to women and girls must never be challenged.

This is why the myth innumerable women are supposedly making false allegations against innocent men is increasingly being bandied about because it deflects attention away from men’s accountability and responsibility. Daring to challenge men’s pseudo sex right to women and girls goes right to the heart of male privilege and pseudo rights over women and girls. So the focus must always remain on blaming women, whilst systematically ignoring the actions of those men who commit rape and/or other forms of sexual violence against women. Attempting to discredit academics and feminist researchers is an old trick, but is it not strange that the Crown Prosecution Service’s first detailed Crime Report for 2007-2008 recorded that in the two years ending March 2008, over 6,700 defendants were prosecuted for rape of which 99% defendants were men in 2006-7 and 2007-8. Likewise 87% victims of rape were women in 2006-7 and 2007-8. The CPS most certainly does not declare itself to be ‘feminist’ so either all these defendants were falsely accused or else there was sufficient evidence for a prosecution.

http://womensgrid.freecharity.org.uk/?p=1553

Finally, do not forget that when a man charged with rape is acquitted this does not automatically mean the woman rape survivor is a liar – rather it means the case could not be proved. Therein lies the difference. Abyss2hope has more on acquittals which are increasingly wrongly being seen as proof women/girl rape survivors are all liars.

Alice // Posted 20 March 2009 at 2:41 pm

QUOTE: Finally, do not forget that when a man charged with rape is acquitted this does not automatically mean the woman rape survivor is a liar – rather it means the case could not be proved. Therein lies the difference.

Hear hear. Although I think on slightly more sinister lines as well. What I’m about to say is in no way condoning the fact that some women do tell porkies about having been raped, mind you. I’ve heard about women going to the Police saying that they’ve been raped, then later drop the charges & say they made it up. Yes, maybe some of them did make it up, which is appalling, but I reckon that some of the people that do this are bullied into doing so by their rapist & his friends, with threats to “kill her”, “make her pay for calling him a rapist”, etc. being made, along with the taunts that “no one will believe her because she’s a slag/got a reputation/was drunk,etc., etc.”

Rachel // Posted 20 March 2009 at 5:08 pm

In any case, it’s hard enough to get a conviction for rape in a genuine case, so I really fail to see how, even if women were inventing rape on any scale, this actually means any men are going to prison when they shouldn’t be.

Jan // Posted 31 December 2009 at 5:53 pm

“Finally, do not forget that when a man charged with rape is acquitted this does not automatically mean the woman rape survivor is a liar – rather it means the case could not be proved. Therein lies the difference. Abyss2hope has more on acquittals which are increasingly wrongly being seen as proof women/girl rape survivors are all liars”

Good point, and that’s why anonymity until found guilty ought to be the norm for everyone accused of a crime, even rape. This way, even if a rapist does get off, no debate about who’s lying and his victim can’t be accused of “ruining his reputation”!

aimee // Posted 1 January 2010 at 5:16 pm

Do you know what? I never hear the ‘they make it all up’ argument against thieves, or con artists, or … any other form of crime other than rape. I’m sure some people lie to the police about all kinds of crimes but no one ever says ‘oh well, then most of them make it up.. there’s is no problem with… x y z…’. The ‘some women make it up’ thing is totally, completely irrelevant and is nothing more than a sad attempt to maintain the rights (some) men feel they are entitled to over women’s bodies.

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