47,000. The estimated number of rapes each year in the UK
191. The number of convictions for rape each year in the UK
Countless: the injustices against women in the criminal justice system.
Lindsay Armstrong was 16 when she gave evidence of being raped the previous year, three weeks later, she was found dead in her room having committed suicide.
When a woman is raped she faces the critical decision of whether or not to report the crime to the police. And whilst it may be him who committed the crime, it will most likely be her who is put on trial at court. That is, of course, if the case even gets that far given that the majority of cases are dropped before they even reach that stage. If the girl in question is a model of chastity who never goes out, never drinks, has never had a boyfriend and permanently dresses in the most modest of clothes then she will be perfectly fine in front of the judge and jury. If, on the other hand, she comes from the real world and has had a boyfriend, god-forbid engaged in sexual relations, or goes out dancing with her friends occasionally then her story is likely to be quite different. Lindsay Armstrong, being only 15 at the time of the rape, did not have a sordid sexual history but this did not stop the judge from allowing in demeaning questions. At one point, she was asked to hold up the underwear from the incident and read out the words which adorned her knickers; ‘little devil’. The relevance? Perhaps the rapist had x-ray vision and could read these apparently sexually suggestive words through her outer clothing?
Prominent figure Vera Baird commented during parliamentary discussion about the 1999 sexual history evidence legislation that, were she to be raped by someone she knew, after all, the majority of rape is acquaintance rape, then she would be unlikely to report it, particularly after the recent case of R v A. I am quite sure that she would not be alone but what can be done to change this? Must enough women go through this hell, as martyrs for those that follow? After all, is that not how we got the vote? Or are we, in fact, our harshest critic? At a train station recently the woman beside me noticed the article I was reading about the proportion of blame the rape victim should accept. She spoke out her view that ‘girls these days ask for it’ and whilst I shied away from any retaliation it got me wondering who we have to turn to. If girls themselves believe that by wearing revealing clothing, drinking and dancing, they are making themselves responsible for crimes committed against them then what hope do we have of convincing the rest of society?
When I put on a skirt tomorrow night for dinner with my girlfriends, do I lose the right to withhold consent to sexual activity?
(For more information on the ‘This is not an invitation to rape me campaign go and visit their website; http://www.thisisnotaninvitationtorapeme.co.uk/)