‘Help! False Rape’

// 13 March 2013

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This is a guest post by Jennifer James, who can be found on Twitter @msjenniferjames

Two people a month are killed by animals in the UK. Which is a horrible thing to happen – but it’s rare. Similarly, two people in the UK are falsely accused of rape each month. Another appalling crime but again, it has to be said, rare.

Which makes me question why the two writers of a @bbcnewsbeat piece, Declan Harvey and Anisa Subedar splashed with ‘False Rape Claims ‘Devastating’ Say Wrongly Accused‘. They were writing up the news of CPS head Keir Starmer’s speech which has outlined fresh guidance for police dealing with rape victims. Here’s an excerpt from their article: ‘New figures show two people a month are being prosecuted for making false claims of rape across England and Wales….’

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Mr Starmer QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions has directed police and the CPS to be more robust when seeking rape convictions. To make his point, he emphasized that of the thousands of rape allegations reported each month, just three in ten thousand are false, or 0.03%. In other words, he’s saying – women aren’t being believed, men are getting away with rape and the police have to do better.

BBC Newsbeat is the news outlet for Radio 1. And as the station trying to recover its image after the Jimmy Savile scandal, it is the one BBC news outlet that needs to get this right for their young audience. In this article, their BBC is telling them: ‘Rape doesn’t often happen’ ‘Girls just make it up’ ‘How awful for these poor, innocent men’.

By raising the issue of false allegations, @NewsDeclan and @OnlyAnisa have taken the finger of blame and forced it painfully the other way. Newsbeat has picked this story up by its throat, turned it inside out so its guts are showing then staked a flag in it saying: ‘But what about the poor men?’.

Noone is forgetting the humanity of men and I really don’t think we need reminding of it when reporting on sex crime policy. The problem is that SOME men and, can I stress, a VERY small percentage of them are ignoring the humanity of a woman and her right to have sex on her terms and her terms only.

False allegation is rare enough to be classified as a rape myth: ‘She’s lying’ or, ‘She’s making it up to get back at me’. According to the recent police inquiry on Savile, six or seven victims approached police during the TV star’s years of serial abuse. They were, on an individual basis, sent away by the copper at the station front desk with: ‘I don’t believe you. Get out’.

The problem with crying: ‘Help! False Rape’ has been exacerbated by its incredible success as a rape defence in court cases. This reminds me of a scene in the film ‘A Few Good Men‘. Demi Moore, wanting to lure Marine Chief Jack Nicholson into admitting having ordered abuse, pleads with barrister Tom Cruise: ‘But you KNOW he’s lying!’. To which legal-savant Cruise replies: ‘Great! I was afraid we couldn’t use the ‘Liar, liar, pants on fire’ defence!’.

But what a marvelous defence ‘Liar, liar’ turns out to be. In the Frances Andrade rape case, of recent months, the ‘Pants on fire’ rape defence was chillingly played out as we watched. Successfully.

Mrs Andrade was sexually abused as a child by one of her teachers and his wife when she was a pupil at Chetham’s music school. The abusers, Michael Brewer and former wife Kay had barrister Kate Blackwell QC heckle Mrs Andrade for two days and accuse her of, ‘indulging in the realms of fantasy’.

But then you have to ask: what IS the motivation for the woman who goes to police to make a false allegation of rape. Is it the thought of being humiliated by a private genital examination after being physically overpowered?

Is it the hope that you’ll get to sit in a small room with no windows for hours on end answering the questions of strangers wearing uniforms when you’re reeling with shock and pain? The wish to live a few months, or years, with the prospect of having to stand up and face – not just your attacker or his barrister – but a full courtroom? Is it the pure joy evoked when the judge and every member of the jury says: ‘I don’t believe you. Get out’ while the people from the newspapers scribble down notes.

‘Liar, Liar’ is the best defence most alleged rapists can conjure up. It hooks rape case juries – but not juries sitting on cases of burglary or common assault. Because of you, Declan Harvey and Anisa Subedar. Because of the BBC and Newsbeat. Who was the programme editor today by the way – the canteen manager? Take firm hold of that finger – and point it the other way.

[The image is two screenshots next to each other. The one on the left is from the Guardian website and shows a headline which reads, “Rape investigations “undermined by belief that false accusations are rife”. The one on the right is from BBC Newsbeat and reads, “False rape claims ‘devastating’ say wrongly accused”. Underneath the screenshots is text which reads, “Let’s play spot the bias”. The image was created by @fuz_wuz and is used with permission]

Comments From You

Lucy // Posted 13 March 2013 at 6:03 pm

Thanks for this piece – I find it bizarre how many people seem to buy into this theory of women accusing men of rape as some sort of revenge or punishment – in my opinion, given how rape victims are often treated by the police, the press and an alarmingly large portion of general society, that would just amount to plain masochism.

It is difficult enough for a woman who has become the victim of sexual assault to come forward, and it is a well known fact that most of them don’t – why deter them further? The liar-liar defense doesn’t even need to be pulled out of the hat in court in most cases, the threat of it – and the public humiliation of the victim that goes along with it – is enough, in many cases, to prevent prosecution altogether. We need to stop nurturing a cultural climate in which sexual assault and harassment are not taken seriously, and we need to stop questioning the credibility of victims reporting a hideous crime, and focus instead on the perpetrators.

SexierThanThou // Posted 13 March 2013 at 10:35 pm

“Liar, Liar’ is the best defence most alleged rapists can conjure up… Because of you, Declan Harvey and Anisa Subedar.”

It’s the best defence because it’s the only defence. If a judiciary believes that all accused are innocent until proved guilty (and rightly so) and if rape is notoriously difficult to prove, what other defence would one defer to? (Also, Liar, Liar and legal defence represents a tautology does it not?)

SexierThanThou // Posted 13 March 2013 at 10:40 pm

Also, some help with the stats here, please:

“To make his point, he emphasized that of the thousands of rape allegations reported each month, just three in ten thousand are false, or 0.03%.”

So the implication is that 99.97% are true? Legally proven true? Aren’t most of these allegations essentially stuck in limbo, uncharged or leading to non-convictions?

Kathryn // Posted 14 March 2013 at 10:26 am

“Sexierthanthou” – read the original pieces. This article is about the bias in reporting of Starmer’s comments. Your questions can be answered with a bit of effort on your part.

ganiya2 // Posted 14 March 2013 at 12:42 pm

I wonder when society will stop allowing men to get away with rape. In a society that keeps a lot of record, a woman may not be able to remove a rape history from her records. So why will a women want to add a ‘rape victim’ or ‘survivor’ to her credentials if it didn’t happen?

BlackOut // Posted 14 March 2013 at 2:23 pm

Hi I am new to this site but I couldn’t help but comment on this interesting piece. I myself am a survivor of rape, harassment and abuse. I only recently after six years decided to report the abuse after suffering a major breakdown and two attempted suicides. I cannot say why on earth a woman would lie about such a thing as it is the most humiliating thing I have ever had to go through, at least the actual rapes were over quickly but the police process is degrading and drawn out. I reported on February the 13th, it was two weeks till I had to go for a statement, which last 7.5 hours with no food, only water, no tissues and no one sat with me. In I was interrogated (to see how I would stand in court) and was asked things such as ‘are you sure he didn’t think you meant yes’ when quite clearly in my situation the rapist took no consideration what I wanted. I was also told by the police when I mentioned to them I was worried about media interest and his powerful friends causing me trouble they said ‘sure people will hate you for a while but they will get over it’. I am still waiting for him to be arrested at the moment and I haven’t heard from the police since the statement. Whether this goes to court or not, I will be labelled the one who ‘accused rape’ or ‘shes the one who was raped’, this will affect things from getting employment to just going to the shops (as he is quite well known in our area and liked). That alone put me off for years but I had to make a stand for what is right in my heart, if not for myself but for the other women who have not been able to come forward. Its shit, but I’ve done it, and whther I am believed or not does not matter anymore. I know I did the right thing, no matter what, but my life will likely get even shittier as the case progresses. No woman who is sane would push themselves through this, what real benefit do they get? I don’t want to direct traffic elsewhere but my blog of my case is on survivingrape.blogspot.co.uk if anyone wants to see why I am so sick about this, silence which is ushered over us.

Thanks for listening.

Great Post, thanks.

LMB // Posted 14 March 2013 at 4:30 pm

It wasn’t just Newsbeat. BBC 5 Live’s phone in with Victoria Derbyshire had an hour of men calling in talking about the effect false rape allegations had had on their lives. At one point a woman who had written an email telling a story about what happened to her son was called back to relay the story on air. Now, admittedly, I listened from 11 – 12 so perhaps the hour beforehand dealt with the impact rape has on women. But in radio you’re not taught to produce as though people are listening for the whole of the programme, but contextualize and add context throughout the show to offer perspective and insight. It failed to do so in that hour. Even the copy of the news bulletins used the bias of the issue of false rape allegations.

5Live is a “blokey” station and, despite having more female voices on air than probably any other BBC outlet, it slips into misogyny with alarming frequency. It seems naive to hope that a female presenter means a more balanced approach, that at least someone might be thinking of the impact this might have to young women who are listening but clearly not.

jennifer nicole james // Posted 14 March 2013 at 9:04 pm

Dear Blackout,

I am moved and saddened by your story. I am so, so sorry you have had to live through this. I can’t tell you how much I admire you for having the guts to write about it on here.

Your words (and blog) will help anyone who reads them, especially those who are living through the same nightmare. They will know it’s not just them who has this reaction to the trauma of rape. It’s a normal response to an abnormal, sickening experience.

There are Independent Sexual Violence Advisors (ISVAs) in many areas. They offer advocacy and support for women who have been victims of sexual abuse. If you don’t have one (and you’re absolutely entitled to) then the link may be useful.

ISVAs can take you from the day of the attack right up to any point – including the end of the judicial process. Link has a document you can download to help find one in your area: http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/publications/crime/isva-funding

JJ x

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