THE BLOG

The Misunderstood Crime Part 2

20/05/2013 14:43 BST | Updated 19/07/2013 10:12 BST

In a crime blog in the Guardian last year, rape and sexual assault didn't even merit a category of its own, whereas bicycle theft did. The statistics clearly show that women do not feel confident enough to report when they have been raped, because it is not treated as a serious crime by either society or the judiciary. An article from IoS, which investigated Britain's record on rape in light of the Savile cases, makes for a sobering read (please see articles recommended below). Here is a pertinent extract from it:

"Dr Jane Monckton-Smith, a criminologist at Gloucestershire University, said: "I absolutely do despair that the police haven't learnt more lessons. The biggest reason is our incredible reluctance to believe women who come forward. It's all down to culpability. The more culpable the women is perceived to be, the less she is believed."Dr Monckton-Smith, a former police officer, added: "We've got the wrong picture of what a rapist looks like in our collective imagination. We think they're monsters, but they're not. They're ordinary people. We haven't got rid of the idea that most people are suspicious of a woman making a claim of rape if she doesn't present as extremely traumatised. If she's not screaming and crying, it makes her less believable. We look for a stereotypical jump-out-of-the-bushes rapist to substantiate a story. If it's just some guy in a suit, then people can't see it as a straightforward case."

We have heard of the horrendous gang-rape in India. There have been several articles on how it is indicative of a patriarchal society, where men think they can (and often do) get away with anything. But this problem is not India's alone; and at least Indian citizens, both male and female, have been outraged enough to protest and demand change from their government - can we say the same? Although most other crime has fallen over the last ten years, sexual and violent crimes have risen in the UK. Which brings me back to the question that has been plaguing me over the last year or so, every time there is an inane-comment-about-rape article in the news e.g.: "serious rape" (Kenneth Clarke MP, May 2011), "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down." (Senator Todd Akin, August 2012), "I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that's something God intended to happen." (clearly the fact that you were not re-elected is also something God intended to happen, Senator Richard Mourdock, October 2012), and clearing Julian Assange of being nothing more than an ill-mannered little boy, with his "bad sexual etiquette" (from the leader of now ironically monikered "Respect" party, George Galloway MP).

The answer lies in the re-education of men. In his podcast on "How Liberal Women are building a shameless society", Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson stated: "Women cannot handle power. It is not within them to handle power. ... The real and true power comes from God and God is the one that gave man the power and the authority over the wife." Although this man is a right-wing fundamentalist Christian boor, I would hazard a guess to say that within this quote is the flame of a still flickering myth that lurks within the psyche and across the gamut of male society: women need, and like to be dominated. Nothing could be farther from the truth, and I have yet to come across the woman who has extolled the virtues on non-consensual violent sexual assault. As my own story at the beginning illustrates, one doesn't have to be drunk, out clubbing, or in an unlicensed mini-cab for someone to attempt to assault you. So applying scaremongering tactics and targeting women is merely attacking the symptom, not the cause. But there is another, and more interesting approach being tested.

In an excellent article by Catherine Scott in the Independent in July 2012 entitled: "Hey women, stop getting so drunk", she writes:

"Sensible anti-rape campaigns are possible - Thames Valley Police produced an excellent'Don't Cross The Line' campaign which crucially acknowledged that most rapes take place between people who know each other, and urged men to abandon their belief that 'I can't be a rapist, I don't lurk in dark alleys'. Lambeth Council also did a great job with their Do You Know The Difference campaign, telling men that "a woman saying yes to a drink doesn't mean yes to sex", and putting the onus squarely on men " to make sure that she consents and agrees to sex. If you don't, then it's rape."

I would also add that we need to take a leaf out of India's book, and start to name and shame convicted rapists. While there will be arguments about the legalities of this with regard to the rights of the rapist, I would contend that (a) it is more vital that the half of the population that are female have their right to live unviolated and protected, (b) in my opinion, a convicted rapist waives the right to anonymity when they commit the rape and and impose their will non-consensually on another human being and (c) it is a given that anonymity would be lost after a conviction, when judicially we can assume a rigorous process has taken place that assesses the right verdict has been reached. Currently it seems that, because of laughably low conviction rates that there is no deterrent for this particular crime; so it makes sense to at least try a different tactic. To quote Albert Einstein, the very definition of "insanity: doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results". My hope is, that in a few decades time, instead of seeing infuriating articles with idiotic quotes by men in positions of more power than sense and understanding, that by doing something differently, we can create a better and more harmonious society for all the people who live in it - no matter what their gender is.