exciting, informative, snarky, and very likely fabricated tales of life as an american expat in london

why rape doesn’t matter

by Jen at 9:59 pm on 31.01.2007 | 3 Comments
filed under: like a fish needs a bicycle

there’s still a lot about the u.k. that is inherently sexist. some of it is more overt (the topless photos inside the “newspapers”) and some of it is more subtle (the use of the endearment “love” in a pejorative and belittling way). margaret thatcher notwithstanding, there are still a lot of obvious inequalities and insidious patriarchal attitudes that pervade the culture. i was quite struck by it when i first arrived, and i am sad to say, it has since faded into background noise. because, well, i live here – and you just can’t spend all day every day in a black cloud of righteous indignation.

one thing that never fails to raise my hackles, however, is the topic of rape. rape is an appalling topic no matter what the circumstances, but rape in the u.k. is truly horrific because only 5% of reported rape cases end in a conviction. that’s a number which has, in fact, been falling since 1977. of the cases that go to trial, one of every two ends in acquittal. in other words, a victim who manages to make it to trial has only a 50/50 crapshoot of getting to see her attacker put behind bars.

and reading the reports, it’s not hard to understand why. in news item after news item, there’s just no sense that anyone in the justice system takes rape seriously. there’s a lot of talk about the number of false accusations, the difficulties of determining consent if someone’s been binge drinking, and passing the buck blame-gaming. all we hear is how hard it is to determine what happened when the two parties know each other. attempts at judicial reforms have been dismissed by judges, police incorrectly record allegations as “no crimes”, and more than a third of dropped cases have should have been pursued. but perhaps the most telling indicator of how rape is viewed and prosecuted in the u.k. is that women are still often questioned about their sexual history as part of the trial.

all of those elements combine to form a pretty clear picture: rape just doesn’t matter much. and given that most rape victims are women, it implies that women just don’t matter much. which is why it is estimated 9 of 10 cases are never reported. the response to the most recent reports are feeble at best. there is no outrage, no shock – instead people say there shouldn’t be artificial targets for conviction. they trot out the old stereotype of a woman who only cries “rape” the morning after in a haze of regret. they say that a trial ending in a verdict of “innocent” is just as successful as a trial ending in a verdict of “guilty”.

what it boils down to is more of the same old shit. when rapists are free to walk the streets, they are free to rape again, creating more victims who don’t come forward or have ineffectual trial cases, further solidifying the wall of silence and making even more women vulnerable. and in a culture where victims of rape are blamed and disbelieved, why should any woman want to put herself through even more trauma when the chances of justice are so low, and the chances of humiliation so high? for victims of sexual assault, there truly is no justice. and while i can tune out the page 3 titties staring out at me from the papers every morning and i can tune out the men with a disparaging sneer in their voice, i simply cannot tune out the horror of living in a country where rapists get away with it – over and over again.

(while i have referred only to female victims of rape here, that’s not in any way to dismiss the plight of male victims of rape – simply that the overwhelming numbers are women)



  • 1

    Comment by Amity

    1.02.2007 @ 08:54 am

    It’s sickening, isn’t it? This infuriates me on a weekly basis. Just last week a friend of mine had her drink spiked at a club and the bouncers, while very kind to her and non-judgemental, didn’t make any effort to find the guy. They could’ve reviewed CCTV footage or called the police but they didn’t. They just patted her on the head and told her to stick with her girlfriends for the rest of the evening. It makes me sick to my stomach that she could’ve been dragged off and raped and no one would’ve cared.

  • 2

    Comment by Anglofille

    1.02.2007 @ 09:02 am

    when i was living in england, i remember being *shocked* by this. even men who kill their wives don’t often receive harsh punishments. i don’t understand it. it’s not like englishwomen are disenfranchised. why don’t they cause a big fuss about this? perhaps our views are shaped by the fact that we are used to american laws. it’s not as if american laws regarding rape and other sexual offenses are as good as they should be, but at least this is a constant topic of discussion and debate in american society. it’s viewed as an extremely important issue by a rather sizable percentage of the public.

  • 3

    Pingback by Jen’s Den of Iniquity » more on why rape doesn’t matter

    12.02.2007 @ 22:26 pm

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