Posted in Criminal law, Rape, sexual assault & harassment, tagged attrition rate, conviction rate, criminal jusice system, false allegations, harm of rape, Helen Reece, rape myth acceptance, rape myths on June 14, 2013 |
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Nikki Godden is a lecturer in law at Newcastle Law School.
(Picture card ‘this is not an invitation to rape me’ from Rape Crisis Scotland.)
The low conviction rate for rape – approximately 6 per cent where convictions are measured out of the number of reported cases – and the high rate at which rape cases filter out of the criminal justice system before trial is well known. One common explanation for these statistics is that rape complainants and cases are judged by reference to rape myths, which are false assumptions as to what constitutes rape, and when, where and between whom sex is typically non-consensual. Examples of rape myths are propositions such as: a woman wearing a short skirt is more likely to have consented to sex than a woman wearing less revealing clothing; rape victim-survivors report the incident immediately to the police; rape victim-survivors typically physically resist the perpetrator; subsequent sexual engagements between two people are more likely to be consensual than the first time they had sex. Failing to reflect women’s lived experiences of sexual violations, it is often said that reference to these myths result in complainants being treated with suspicion, cases not being adequately investigated or prosecuted, and defendants being acquitted relatively frequently. However, in an article in the Oxford Journal of Legal Studies which was summarised in the media (see here for example), Helen Reece argues that ‘rape myths’ are not as widespread as is commonly claimed, and do not hinder the investigation and prosecution of rape cases to the extent that is argued by many researchers, feminist activists and policy-makers. (more…)
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No one wants to believe the worst about their brothers, sons, or prominent celebrities when it comes to an allegation of rape. Well-publicized cases like Kobe Bryant’s and Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s, where the prosecution virtually crumbled under pretrial pressure, make people wary that rape victims might be manipulating the system. But is there really a need for all the suspicion of the accuser?
The statistics on sexual violence in America are startling and could potentially explain America’s odd obsession with CSI and the rise of online forensic nursing schools. It is something you can’t escape. One in six women will be victim to rape or attempted rape in her lifetime. The numbers are around one in thirty-three for men, according to the Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey, which is taken twice a year. Two-thirds of rapes are committed by someone known to the victim. But what really stands out about these numbers is that they do not reflect the number of convictions for rape. In fact, the likelihood of being convicted for rape is slim. Only three of every 100 reported rapists will ever spend one day in jail (NCVS 2006-2010). Not quite half of rapes committed are ever reported to authorities. The system is undoubtedly rigged–but it’s not on the side of the accuser–false or not. It’s on the side of the rapist. (more…)
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[Since this post has been written, the woman has been freed. Read about it here. In spite of this relief, many of the points for concern expressed below still stand.]
A woman has been given an eight-month prison sentence after falsely retracting a complaint that she had been raped by her husband. As an apparently first of its kind, and with appalling facts, the press have been quick to report it (with articles from the BBC, Guardian and Telegraph; these sources have been relied upon in writing this post). Unsurprisingly, the End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAWC) and the charity Rape Crisis have responded quickly, expressing their ‘outrage’ at the case, and there is already an abundance of comments in the blogosphere. Nevertheless, this sad and shocking story and the concerns that this case throws up are worthy of repetition here. (more…)
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