Rape happens. There is no point pretending it doesn't. In fact, the incidence of rape in the UK, particularly in Scotland where new Government crime figures for 2012-13 suggest that 16% more rapes have been reported this year compared to last.
Whilst this may be a result of more victims coming forward rather than an increase in attacks, it is still a worrying situation. Previous statistics suggest that around three rapes are reported everyday despite just 10% of survivors reporting their experiences. Only around 25% of those that are reported are prosecuted.
The common (erroneous) assumption is that rapists are hooded knife-wielding psychopaths who lurk in dark alleys and wait for the first unsuspecting victim to lose her way. That is far from reality; British Crime Survey figures show that 90% of rape victims know the identity of their attacker and over half are assaulted by a partner or ex-partner. Women are actually more likely to be sexually assaulted in their homes than anywhere else and almost two-thirds experience repeated assaults. This is often deemed 'marital rape' or 'partner rape'.
We must not forget that rape is rape, regardless of where it takes place or what prefix precedes it. Unfortunately, the archaic myth that women cannot be raped by their husbands still exists. Although feminist movements have worked hard to erode that myth, there are still some people who wrongly think that marriage voids sexual rights.
The belief that rape is somehow less serious if it is not perpetrated by a knife-wielding stranger is ridiculous. Emotional damage accompanies any form of sexual assault. In fact, experts believe that 'marital rape' can actually be more emotionally damaging because it happened at the hands of someone who was loved and trusted. The aftermath can be very confusing for the survivor as a sense of loyalty or fear of retribution means they are less likely to report their attackers or seek legal redress. Some are even unaware that what happened was illegal; it was only in 1989 that rape in marriage was recognised as a crime in Scotland.
Victims, and society as a whole, must recognise that rape is a crime just like any other and rapists must be punished appropriately for breaking their contract with society. 'Appropriately' is the keyword. No matter how much we want to string them up, our laws should be above human emotion. Rape is morally reprehensible but so too is capital punishment. We must also be careful not to dehumanise rapists; they are people too. They are not all violent demoniacs who hide in bushes with knives. Some are vicious predators, as evil as any real human could be, but there are still 'normal' men who commit a terrible crime with terrible consequences.
Before condemning them for eternity, what must be determined is whether they deliberately and maliciously set out to violently breach someone's fundamental human rights or if they were unaware that they were committing a sex crime.
They are guilty in either scenario and rape can never be excused, but there are too many instances where men, and even their victims, don't believe that a crime has been committed. They don't believe that they are perpetrators because they aren't knowingly, intentionally or maliciously committing sex crimes.
Therefore, is it punishment and retribution after the event which will stop increasing amounts of rapes? Or is societal education and awareness which will prevent one of the most abhorrent crimes from occurring?