Rape - It’s not your fault
This candle is a constant reminder of those women who weren’t as lucky as i was. So many violent crimes against women happen each year, many as a result of sexual abuse of one form or another. They didn’t come out of their battle alive. I did. I am a survivor.
Some Misconceptions and Facts about rape
- Rape doesn’t happen very often.
Fact: Every hour 78 women are raped in the United States. I don’t have information about the UK. But i would imagine it still to be more than anyone imagines.
- Rape is just “one of those things that happens”.
Fact: Rape has a devastating, truamatic effect on it’s victims. It is very serious crime. Nearly one-third of all rape victims will develop rape-related PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) in their lifetimes.
- Real rapes can only be committed by strangers.
Fact: Over half of rape victims know their attacker.
- Women who are raped are ususally those who behave or dress in such a way to make their attacker think they are “fair game”
Fact: No one, ever, deserves to be raped. Victims cannot suffer the blame for the non consentual actions another person uses against them.
- Unless an attacker uses a weapon such as a gun or a knife it isn’t rape.
Fact: Anytime someone uses force with intercourse non-consentually, it is rape. The force may include alcohol, weapons, intimidation and emotional blackmail, drugs, or a victim’s own diminished mental capacity.
- Unless a woman fights and struggles against her attacker, it isn’t really rape.
Fact: Any sex act forced against another person’s will is rape. It doesn’t matter if the victim was able to fight back or not. Many women are too scared to fight for fear of being hurt even more.
- Husbands can’t rape their wives. It’s her wifely duty.
Fact: Most battered women have also been victims of rape by their husbands. Just because you are married doesn’t give your partner the liscence to force you against your will.
- Women try and accuse men of rape because they had sex, and then changed their minds.
Fact: Rape is one of the most under-reported crimes in the country. Only 16% of all rapes are ever reported to the police.
- If it is really rape then the victim will report it to the police immediately.
Fact: Most cases are reported quite soon after they have occured. However, 25% percent are reported more than 24 hours after the rape happened. Some are even reported many years later.
- “I know she really wanted to have sex so it was ok to get rough”.
Fact: Everyone has the right to say no, to change their minds, or decide not to have sex. It doesn’t matter at what stage “no” means NO.
- Rape is something that only happens to women.
Fact: Men and children are also victims of rape.
- Rape only happens to women who are out late at night.
- Fact: Rape happens everywhere. It happens at all hours of the day and night. It happens in our homes, in the street, at work, in car parks, in public places as well as in remote places.
These facts were compiled from a combination of many lists from various rape crisis centres. (American information from the Department Of Justice)
Facts and figures the shocking truth
- The numbers of rapes that were reported to the police trebled between 1985 and 1993, but the number of men who were convicted of rape has remained virtually the same.
- According to Home Office statistics, out of the 4600 rapes reported in 1993 less than 10% resulted in a conviction. That was a drop of 24% on the figures for 1985.
- In 1993 only 89 convictions for rape out of a study of 335 cases of alleged rape rape were achieved. 165 complainants dropped out before the start of court proceedings for a number of different reasons. The main ones were because the woman withdrew her allegations, refused to testify, the suspect was never identified and charged, or the police decided to drop the case because they felt the allegations were false. Of the 170 cases that eventually did end up in court 34 defendants were acquitted or had the case against them dismissed, and a further 47 were convicted of lesser offences.
- A Thames Valley Police survey showed that although 90% of women who had never experienced a sexual attack, when surveyed believed they would report the crime, in reality only about 6% of women who had actually been raped made formal allegations
- A staggering 83% of rape victims knew their attackers, and almost half of all rapes happened in the victim’s home. The vast majority of alleged victims are under 30 with a fairly high proportion of those aged under 16.
On trial the victim of rape or the perpetrator?
Why is it that so many rape victims feel it is them and not the alleged rapists who are put on trial in the court room?
In common with almost all criminal trials, the legal system does seem to favour the defendant, but even more so in rape trials. The accused is allowed to discuss his case with his lawyers before and during the trial. He is allowed to build a very close relationship with his lawyers whilst awaiting trial, especially as he will have had to appear in a magistrates court several times before the case is even referred to crown court and the trial itself. The laws of disclosure also allow him access to all of the prosecution evidence, including the victim’s and other witness’s statements giving him and his lawyers ample time to plan all angles of questioning that may take place at the trial.
Not all cases are straight forward. If on arrest the perpetrator admits the charge of rape it is a simple case of him appearing in court and being sentenced for the crime. However in most cases the perpetrator on questioning thinks he has nothing to loose by admitting he was not guilty, knowing that it is then up to the police to collect as much evidence as possible so that they can refer the case to the Crown Prosecution Service. The CPS will only proceed with a case if they think there is enough evidence for them to take it to trial and by doing so stand a good chance of it resulting in a conviction. The CPS are then the prosecutors.
So unlike the perpetrator, once the CPS are involved the victim is not allowed to confer with the prosecution lawyers in order to prepare the case before it goes to court. She will never have met the lawyers acting on behalf of the CPS. The victim has no right to see any of the statements other than her own which she is allowed to read prior to entering the court room, just to refresh her memory. She will have no idea of the questions she is likely to face, or how she should answer them, because she has no idea about what the perpetrator has said in his statements. She is not allowed to call witnesses to give character references. Only the first person she spoke to after the alledged rape happened is allowed to give evidence on her behalf. She has no one in the courtroom that really knows her or anything much about her, outside of what is written in statements (apart form the perpetrator if he wasn’t a stranger) So the victim enters the court room feeling very scared, nervous and ill prepared for what can only be described as a public scrutiny of her life, morals, way of behaving and a need to prove her innocence when in fact she was the victim not the perpetrator. Appearing in court under any circumstances is always difficult, but when it is a rape trial it is even harder for the victim who will have to undergo questioning about very painful, embarrasing, truamatic personal and intimate details of something that will have left deep emotional scars.
This system would appear to discriminate particularly hard against rape victims. The whole issue at stake is usually NOT whether sex took place, but whether or not the victim CONSENTED to intercourse.
The Sexual Offences Amendment Act (1976) says that a victim’s sexual history or character cannot be brought up as evidence except at the judge’s discretion, and then only if it is strictly relevant. However in practice quite often the victims past sexual behaviour is flaunted before the court. In most other trials, once a complainant’s reputation comes under attack, the defendant’s past is open for scrutiny too. However in rape cases it is up to the judge to decide whether he will allow references to the alleged rapist’s history. It matters not that any ammount of attacks may have been already made on the victim’s character.
Sometimes the jurors expectations of a rape victim are often at odds with the victims real experiences. Although they are supposed to be non judgemental and make their desicions based on evidence they have heard in the courtroom, they are more likely to convict when they hear evidence about a ‘respectable’ looking sexually inexperienced woman who suffered injury when raped by a stranger, and who reported the incident within 24 hours, than someone from a lower class background, with a “colourful” sexual history, and who waited some time before going to the police, even the incidents may have been similar.
After reading the facts is it really so hard to understand why so many women are reluctant to persue their allegations of rape through the justice system as it stands right now? So many women feel that to go through the discrimination of the courts, finding the strength and determination that is needed to be able to withstand the rigorous ordeals of the questioning only to face the prospect of the perpetrator not being convicted or being accused of a lesser charge is way beyond their capability. The law as it stands offers little deterrent to rapists, and even less justice to its victim. So, until the justice laws are reformed i see little hope that more rape victims will come forward and feel able to report these insidious, heinous crimes, when faced with the knowledge of the courtroom proceedures reflected here.