Rochdale rape ring; on political correctness versus survivor’s credibility

// 10 May 2012

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It has been revealed that one of the victims of the Rochdale rape ring reported her rapist to police in 2008 – twice – but he was not charged. As reported in the Telegraph and the Mail, the former MP for Keighley, Ann Cryer, suggested that the reason the charges were dropped was due to the men’s race:

“This is an absolute scandal. They were petrified of being called racist and so reverted to the default of political correctness,” she said.

“They had a greater fear of being perceived in that light than in dealing with the issues in front of them.”

Although this is not the first time Mrs Cryer has tried to attribute general social ills to her belief that the police tread too softly with the Asian community, this theme has gained significant currency on the internet, no doubt in part encouraged by the media (the Telegraph made it the focal point of their article, with the headline “Rochdale grooming trial: Police accused of failing to investigate paedophile gang for fear of appearing racist”) The word on the street – or the net – is that this is what happened.

The Guardian’s take is not from the former MP; they report that: “police initially failed to pursue her case because the Crown Prosecution Service advised them she was not a credible enough witness.”

We know that the victims in this case were vulnerable teenagers from “chaotic” backgrounds, and all had been engaged with social services at some stage. When it comes to ‘credibility’ that will have been an influencing factor.

When a rape is reported to the police, the CPS have to decide whether a jury is likely to believe the victim. They will then charge, take no further action, or ‘no crime’ it – make a record that no crime was committed. They might take no further action even if they accept that she was raped, but think a jury will not believe her – because they are dealing with a hypothetical jury in the society we have, not the society we might like, and that society is one which routinely disbelieves rape victims – just look at the Ched Evans furore.

We already know that reported rapes are no-crimed at a rate of 30% in Kent, as opposed to 2% in Gloucestershire. Kent has more pockets of deprivation than Gloucestershire, and its districts (in particular Thanet, Dover, Swale and Shepway) are much further up on the indices of multiple deprivation than those of comparatively well-heeled Gloucestershire. The teenage pregnancy rate is lower, too, in Gloucestershire than in Kent (25.6 v 34.7 per 1,000 women aged 15 – 17 in 2009).

Whether a woman is believed or not is often down to her presentation. The fictitious ‘perfect victim’ will be white, middle-class, virginal, sober, and a stranger to the rapist. The reality is messier. Research done by the Havens in 2010 shows that many people believe that a victim is at least partially responsible for her own rape in certain circumstances:

  • Performing another sexual act on them (73%)
  • Getting into bed with a person (66%)
  • Drinking to excess / blackout (64%)
  • Going back to theirs for a drink (29%)
  • Dressing provocatively (28%)
  • Dancing in a sexy way with a man at a night club or bar (22%)
  • Acting flirtatiously (21%)
  • Kissing them (14%)
  • Accepting a drink and engaging in a conversation at a bar (13%).

The CPS have to decide if a jury – a jury made up of people like those surveyed – will believe a victim or not. Being drunk, scantily dressed, and flirting all make it more likely that the rape will not be charged – and that makes “ladette” or “chavvy” girls less likely to be successful in getting their rapist charged.

Is this right, or acceptable? Hell no, but it’s what happens, and it’s why we need to keep fighting for women, ALL women, to be believed when they report rape.

To those people who say that it’s “political correctness” that stopped the CPS from bringing charges against the Rochdale rapist, I snort contempt. In a society that was already stacked against vulnerable girls known to the care system, we add to it that such girls are just not believed when they report rape, although it goes without saying that they should be.

So before you damn the CPS as blithering toadies to an improbable PC conspiracy, have a good look at yourself, society. Have you ever suggested that a rape victim was making it up? Attention seeking? Asking for it? Have you ever been one of those who thinks a girl in a skimpy dress deserves it, or should have known better, or that a promiscuous girl was no better than she ought to be and probably consented? If so, you are a little bit responsible for that 2008 decision not to charge.

Uncomfortable with that? We ought to be. It is imperative that we believe victims when they report, regardless of their sexual history, intoxication levels or socioeconomic background, or we are all, collectively, responsible for child rape.

Comments From You

gherkinette // Posted 10 May 2012 at 2:11 pm

I agree with the jist of the article but the CPS also judge whether a case should proceed on how likely the complainant is to see it through and this is less likely if a victim’s life is chaotic and they are further penalised. I’d like to see the CPS provide victim advocates to help prevent this further opportunity for attrition rather than use it as another reason to let cases go. But the police and social services also need to work with them on that in situations like this one where many of the victims will not even recognise that they are victims and may react badly to the person who made the allegation.

The CPS have handled this appallingly. We should be looking at hard cases like this one to see how to make all cases better for all victims, not squabbling over race. So many of the articles on this case miss the point by a country mile…

Laura // Posted 10 May 2012 at 3:45 pm

Well said.

I’ve been sighing all week at the fact that everyone’s going on about the race of the perpetrators, but no one seems to want to highlight the one thing that links all the members of this and similar gangs: their sex. Men of all races and religions abuse women and girls. Yet we’re not discussing what it is about being a man that might make one more likely to be an abuser (or what it is about being a woman that might make one more likely to be abused).

Shadow // Posted 10 May 2012 at 4:13 pm

Spot-on Laura the ‘elephant in the room’ is fact these nine men who committed systemic sexual violence against teenage and pre-teen girls are all males. That fact alone must on no account be mentioned or focused on by male supremacy’s propaganda machine – namely malestream media. Instead ‘race’ is the supposed issue because white men never commit sexual violence against women and girls of all ethnicities and races do they? Such tactics are common within our male supremacist system because it is essential ‘ordinary respectable men of whatever ethnicity/race are supposedly incapable of committing systemic sexual violence against women and girls.’ Instead it is always those ‘deviants who commit said crimes – deviants such as the mythical paedophile or the strange man wearing a dirty raincoat. Yes we can spot these ‘deviants’ a mile away can we not?

The very fact the CPS decided not prosecute a man because the female complainant did not ‘fit the male definition of what supposedly comprises a respectable credible female witness’ is appalling. Even worse is the continued hypocritical claims being made by representatives from the CPS, police and legal system that ‘yes we are addressing rape myths and look we have been engaged in training our employees with regards to challenging endemic rape myths and misogynistic beliefs.’ But this has had no effect because the CPS is far more concerned with only prosecuting what it considers to be ‘a real case’ and one wherein the probability of successful conviction is likely.

Will the CPS then in future decide not to prosecute those male individuals who allegedly have committed burglary/fraud/stealing a man’s car because the male complainant(s) were not perceived as ‘respectable family men?’ I think not because a male complainant’s “creditability” does not rest solely on his supposedly ‘sexual morality’ but instead resides on his public personae.

The CPS can, if they choose, prosecute so-called difficult cases and yes they have been successful in the past but this means the CPS must not merely ‘go through the motions’ but ensure they present the case whereby the focus is on the actions/behaviour of the male defendant(s)s. But all too commonly the CPS does not challenge defence counsel claims and instead colludes with male supremacist lies that ‘women and children are innate liars!’

Julian // Posted 10 May 2012 at 5:59 pm

One of the things that made me angry enough to write this is that it’s the SAME PEOPLE who are up in arms about the rapist not being charged in 2008 who are also first to blame women for their own attack (e.g. the Mail.) Before getting so indignant about the *fact* that the man wasn’t charged, they should look at the *reason* he wasn’t charged, and they are the reason, them and their horrible rape culture views on when a woman is believable and when she’s not.

anywavewilldo // Posted 11 May 2012 at 12:09 am

I think feminists, especially white feminists, need to come to terms with the fact that aspects of sexual violence are also racialized. I feel I can only speak for white feminists specifically, and I don’t have anything definitive yet to say – however I do think the exploitation of specifically white young women by men of colour has specific dynamics & we need to be willing to talk about them.

I think men of all heritages/ethnicities can use dynamics of race and racism as part of their sexual exploitation – clearly white men do this frequently. However in some situations I think men of colour also ‘entwine’ race/racism dynamics in their perpetration of violence. One example is the dynamic of white civil rights activists raped within activist communities by African American men [See Alice walker’s writing on this for example].

Could it not be possible that racial stereotypes and racialised views of young white women in Rochdale etc. played a part? Certainly the men’s maleness is of utmost relevance – but we live in an intersectional world. People may use their agent identities all mixed up with their target identities.

[NB target and agent refer to what might be called oppressed/ oppressor groups i.e. a white gay man is a target of homophobia but an agent of racism and sexism]

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