Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/263/24642

From The Socialist newspaper, 19 July 2002

Rape: "No" Really Does Mean No

THE TRIAL of top snooker player Quinten Hann for rape, highlighted all the prejudices, backward attitudes and myths which still surround this issue.

Christine Thomas

Hann was eventually acquitted. During the trial two women came forward to say that they had also been attacked by him but their claims were not put before the court. Whatever the truth surrounding this particular case, the publicity it engendered has reinforced the mistaken but commonly held view that large numbers of women are falsely crying rape.

In the Hann case the defence QC, former Tory MP Sir Ivan Lawrence, labelled the accuser a "spiteful, lying young lady". The Daily Mirror declared that Hann was the real "victim" and repeated the call, which often follows such high-profile cases, for the accused to have anonymity as well as the accuser.

One in four women will be raped or suffer an attempted rape at some time in their lives. Despite scientific advances such as improved DNA testing the number of reported rape cases resulting in conviction by the courts has drastically fallen over the last two decades from 33% in 1977 to just 7.35% today.

There are two conclusions that could be drawn from these figures. The first is that nearly 93% of women who report a rape are "spiteful and lying"; the second that the criminal justice system is badly failing.

The first conclusion is clearly ridiculous and yet the media peddles the myth that if the accuser is acquitted then he must be innocent and the woman lying. In fact a study by the New York sex crimes analysis unit found that just 2% of reported rapes are false allegations, the same percentage as for any other criminal offence.

The idea that women would lie about rape is rooted in backward stereotypical ideas about women and their 'natures'; that they feel guilty or ashamed about having sex for example or are out to get 'revenge' on the man, for whatever reason. Judge Michael Hyam when summing up the trial of a student accused of rape in 1993 said: "experience has shown that complainants make up such allegations for various reasons and sometimes for no reason at all".

That this idea still holds sway prevents women from receiving justice in the courts and can deter women from pursuing cases or reporting them in the first place. One US study carried out in 1992 found that only 16% of rapes were actually reported.

In fact prejudices and myths about women, which are often reinforced by the media, heavily influence rape trials and go some way to explaining why so few cases actually result in a prosecution.

"Sometimes, in the heat of passion when the woman says no she doesn't necessarily mean no" declared Sir Ivan Lawrence during the Hann trial. "Sometimes a woman says no to make it more exciting to the man" he told the judge.

Incredibly this backward myth that no really means yes is still raring its ugly head in rape trials even in the 21st century.

Another misconception is that rape results from irresistible male sexual urges rather than it being at root an action of sexual power and control. In a previous high-profile rape case, DJ Richard Baker admitted: "I'd seek lone females and terrorise these poor girls... I put so much fear into them they wouldn't resist me. I wanted to be in complete control".

Social attitudes

The idea that men should have control over women, in particular over their sexuality, has its roots in the development of private property, the division of society into classes and the rise of the family as an institution for maintaining and perpetuating both these things.

Of course, society is not the same as it was in Roman times for example, when men's control of women sexuality was deeply entrenched. Attitudes have changed as society itself has changed. But ideas can become quite deeply embedded within society and continue to have an effect even after the material basis for them has disappeared.

So until just ten years ago, for example, it was legal for a man to rape his wife because once married, she was considered his property and therefore he had the right to force himself on her sexually.

Even though the law has now been changed, courts are still reluctant to find men guilty when they are in an intimate relationship with the victim. This can have serious implications since most rapists are known to their victims.

The very term 'date rape', which is used by the media to describe rape where the people concerned know each other (although often it might be for only a few hours), trivialises acquaintance rape.

The Sentence Advisory Panel has proposed that sentences for acquaintance rape should be more lenient than those for 'stranger' rapes. Yet many women have explained that being raped by someone who was known and trusted can be just as dramatic as rape by a stranger.

Court injustice

The whole court process can be an extremely intimidating and humiliating experience for women. Some have described the cross-examination they have to endure as like being raped for a second time. In 1999 the law was changed to make it more difficult for a woman's previous sexual history to be raised in court but this has been undermined by its subsequent judgment.

It's considered acceptable for a woman's sexual past and general lifestyle to be dragged through the courts even though they have no bearing on the case concerned. Defence lawyers hope, of course, that if they can persuade the jury that the woman is 'sexually promiscuous' then they will believe that she must have consented this time.

Yet it is extremely unlikely that the alleged perpetrator will be cross-examined about his previous sexual experiences or attitudes towards women, even though these could be very relevant in a rape case.

Often prosecutors do not even speak to the complainants until just hours before the trial because they are supposed to represent the state and remain impartial. According to Sue Lees, a university professor who has written a book on rape, prosecutors rarely ask the right questions when cross-examining defendants.

A study carried out in ten police forces in April 2000 recommended more sensitive treatment of rape complainants. It proposed better training for police, forensic and medical examiners, prosecutors etc as well as recommending specialist teams of prosecutors. When these were introduced in Queens, New York conviction rates increased to 85%.

These recommendations should be implemented and expert witnesses should also be called on in rape trials to dispel many of the myths related to this issue. Changes in the whole criminal justice system, from the police to the Crown Prosecution Service to the courts are necessary if rape victims are to get a fair deal.

But ultimately this economic and social system, which is based on inequalities of power wealth and reinforces backward attitudes towards women, needs to be changed.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.


In The Socialist 19 July 2002:

Unite To Defend Public Services

Safety Before Profit!

Not So Generous Gordon

Student funding: New Labour Targets Students - Again

No To Bush's War For Oil Profits

Rape: "No" Really Does Mean No

Behind The Financial Scandals

Steel Jobs Massacre


 

Home   |   The Socialist 19 July 2002   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate  




Related links:

Rape:

triangleLessons from the Russian revolution for LGBT+ struggle today

triangleWomen and austerity - scrap the 'rape clause'

triangleBenefits workers oppose 'rape clause' and two-child limit

triangleScrap the Tory 'rape clause' and all benefit attacks

triangleInternational Women's Day

Women:

triangleYoung people being strangled by debts

triangleCardiff East Socialist Party: Is equality for women possible under capitalism?

triangleShocking insight into Isis

triangleTheresa May, Frida Kahlo and turning women into wares

Trial:

triangleJobstown Not Guilty trial round-up

triangleJobstown trial begins

triangleThe real origins of May Day

Media:

triangleObesity epidemic: end food market anarchy

triangleNew documentary asks women how their bodies are sexualised and policed

News and socialist analysis

News and socialist analysis

19/10/17

Refugees

Hundreds of torture victims wrongly detained

18/10/17

Brexit

Tories torn - bin them now

18/10/17

What we saw

What we saw

18/10/17

Food

Obesity epidemic: end food market anarchy

18/10/17

NHS

Tories scrap the NHS pay cap: now fight for real-terms pay rises!

18/10/17

Debt

Young people being strangled by debts

13/10/17

Labour

The end of the Tories?

11/10/17

Tories

Nasty party imploding...drive out the Tories

11/10/17

Black history

The fight against racial discrimination is tied to fighting against capitalist austerity

11/10/17

Housing

Housing crisis: Corbyn's positive measures blanked by Labour's right

11/10/17

Universal Credit

Major attacks 'Universal Credit', half a million more face poverty

11/10/17

Them & Us

Them & Us

11/10/17

NHS

NHS meltdown - fight the Tory cuts

11/10/17

IMF

IMF helps cause inequality it slams

4/10/17

NHS

Tories wreck our NHS

triangleMore News and socialist analysis articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party

triangle19 Oct Arriva North West bus drivers strike over pay

triangle18 Oct Russia, October 1917: When workers took power

triangle18 Oct Tories torn - bin them now

triangle18 Oct Royal Mail bosses block strike - back postal workers

triangle18 Oct Balloting members on the pay cap

triangle13 Oct The end of the Tories?

triangle11 Oct Nasty party imploding...drive out the Tories

More ...

triangle21 Oct Birmingham: NSSN Solidarity Forum

triangle23 Oct Chesterfield Socialist Party: The continuing struggle for abortion rights

triangle24 Oct Liverpool Socialist Party: The October Russian Revolution 100 years ago to the day

triangle25 Oct Salford Socialist Party: The October 1917 Russian revolution

More ...

Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

Archive

Archives:

October 2017

September 2017

August 2017

July 2017

June 2017

May 2017

April 2017

March 2017

February 2017

January 2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999

Legal

SP RSS feed RSS

Platform setting: = No platform choice

V2