Tuesday, 3 November 2009

A post of very little sympathy

This article, and another one (trackback) really pissed me off today.

These stories should just not be run. It perpetuates the idea that those falsely accused of rape have such a hard time, the unspoken conclusion of which is that we shouldn't be bringing them to trial at all. Because you're *Ruining* these poor young men's lives!
Sorry, but Boo, Hoo.
Callous I may sound, here, but I don't really care. Mr Bacon can go away, re start his life (didn't even have to be in Malaysia) under a new name, and escape. What about the woman who was raped? Does she have that luxury? No. She has to live with what happened for the rest of her life. To make a comparison, the man in such a situation has had his name trashed. He can get another one. The woman has had the same thing done to her body. It is a private trashing, but therefore more personal, more immediate, and most importantly, irreversible. She cannot go down the council offices and get a new body, like he can get a new name.

Why, why, why are people (mostly men) so hung up on the idea that it is worse for the wrongly accused than for the victim(/survivor)? And then use the fact that a small percentage of men might possibly get wrongfully accused/convicted etc as an excuse for why we should not toughen up rape laws, and bring justice to the One in four* women in the Western world who will be raped at some point in their lives. Or prove wrong the 60% of rape victims/survivors who do not report their rape because they feel they will not be able to get it to court, let alone get a conviction.

Yes, it must be hard for someone to be accused of a crime they didn't commit. But please remember that more people report false claims of grand theft auto than rape. And that false claims make up less than 2% of all reported rapes.

The idea of concealing the accused's identity as well as the plaintiff's is, on the surface, quite an appealing sop to those who want it both ways, but as Ruth Hall from WAR (Women Against Rape) points out, "Most rapists are serial rapists. Many rape cases could be won if more than one woman came forward to give evidence." And if the defendant's identity is kept hidden, then these other possible victim/survivors cannot come forward.
The only scenarios in which this would not apply is if a) this is a first-time rapist (and we all know that all rapes are reported, and we always convict the bastards the first time) or b) we know the defendant is innocent (in which case, why the trial?) or c) All rapists only rape one victim, ever. And if c), then let's take another look at that troubling stat - that 1:4 women are raped at some time in their life. Lets take the lower estimate, the 1:6 even. Now, I can't find the exact stat for the gender split between men and women (I know there's ever so slightly more women in this country), but if we take it as 50:50, then that means, if every rapist only rapes one woman, that one in six men is a rapist.
So let's run through that scenario again, shall we? To argue that we should keep a defendant in a rape case's identity private (something denied to a defendant in any other crime), you are arguing that either a) we have a perfect system where all rapists are caught once they've committed rape, b) there is no such thing as rape, c) 1:6 men are rapists, or the much more likely scenario of d): it is more important for a man to preserve his reputation than it is for a woman to see justice.

Another terrifying thing is that the jury in this case took only 45 minutes to declare Mr Bacon innocent. And look at the circumstances - a woman too drunk to give consent, he carried on... where have I seen this before? And in 45 minutes, 12 people have decided that a man's right to pleasure trumps that of a woman's to bodily integrity. That men shouldn't have to go through all the bother of obtaining consent, of making sure a woman is really into it, if it's too much bother because she was drunk. That consent must be assumed, unless a woman is sober enough, rational enough, and brave enough to give a loud and clear "No!" (preferably accompanied with fighting him off, and then being found afterwards crying and showing obvious distress.). That rape is not rape, essentially, if she was drunk.

I admit I don't know all the facts here. There may be other factors to this case that I haven't considered. But this is the impression that is given out to the public in cases like this: women, if you're drunk and raped, it was your fault for getting drunk. When the message we should be sending out is: Men, if you don't want to be accused of rape, don't take advantage of women when they've been drinking. Never, ever, ever, presume consent, or that you are entitled to sex. No matter how many drinks she's had. No matter how many of them you bought her. No matter how short her skirt or low her neckline. No matter whether or not she's been flirting with you. No matter if she was happy with kissing. Not until she is getting the condom out of her handbag and passing it to you - or even better, she's asking you, actually saying those words "would you like to have sex with me?" can you presume consent. Follow that rule, and you'll never be accused of rape! Simple!**

*An oft quibbled with statistic. Which does apply to America, and is sometimes reduced to 1:6 (troubling enough even then, n'est pas?).

** and in fact much more simple than the current "rule" for women, which seems to be: don't get drunk, don't wear too short a skirt, don't draw attention to yourself, don't be sexual, don't flirt/kiss/otherwise encourage/talk to a man you don't intend to have sex with, (don't, in short, have fun or go out. Ever.) don't walk home alone at night, don't stay in the same room alone with a man, don't act/look/think in any possible way that could be interpreted as provocative, and.... well, you might still get raped. But if you followed all those rules, and told him no, screamed and shouted, tried to fight him off, and looked suitably upset afterwards, and remembered his face, and he isn't a lying f***wit as well as a rapist and doesn't fake an alibi, and you're lucky enough that the jury doesn't believe him anyway and think you're a lying little slut (because your previous sexual conduct must also be absolutely spotless) then you might, just might get a conviction. Which won't be Justice, (because he'll be out in a few years) but it might provide a tiny bit of solace and comfort while you try to put your life back together.


  1. Whereas there's a lot in this post that's legitimate, I have to take issue with the idea that 'this story shouldn't be run'. We are lucky enough to live in a society that, for all its flaws - and there are lots - we are still entitled to report what's happened. If these stories weren't run no one would be able to pick up the articles, as you have, and challenged the opinions therein.

  2. Good point, and you'll find me arguing fairly vociferously on one of these posts somewhere for freedom of speech - I wasn't arguing censorship with this, more that I wish people wouldn't run these stories, I wish the BBC had more sense. The article was a non-story that perpetuated the current (flawed) way of thinking about men and rape and there was no point in running it. Especially if you think, as I do, that the media is there to challenge the status quo not reinforce it.