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Should Rape Suspects Have Their Identity Protected?

Posted: 18/02/2013 16:39

Very often, people's views are pretty black and white when it comes to feminist debates. People generally agree or disagree. For instance, should women be paid the same as men for doing the same job and should women be allowed to abort babies. People are divided on these.

But sometimes an issue arises that doesn't segregate people so clearly. There are calls for people accused of rape to have their identities protected until they are convicted. Under current laws, people who say they have been victims of sexual offences automatically receive anonymity.

Essentially these calls suggest suspects should be granted anonymity too. The reason? Basically because innocent until proven guilty doesn't work, and many people accused of rape are stigmatised for the rest of their lives even if they are proven to be innocent.

The arguments on both sides seem pretty valid. For those that have been raped, why should someone be granted anonymity when they don't do so with other offences? It would probably feel like the law is protecting the offender. Convictions rates for sexual offences are already poor, and victims feel that this would reduce the chance of serial rapists being convicted.

However, if you genuinely didn't commit the crime and you are innocent, being branded a rapist and carrying that black cloud on your shoulders must be like receiving a life sentence. People are quick to judge - I am no different - but if someone is genuinely innocent they shouldn't have to live in a life of hell.

So the issue here is not about anonymity but about the legal system which surrounds sexual offences. And we've all heard it time and again.

Fewer than one rape victim in 30 can expect to see their attacker brought to justice. Only 1,070 rapists are convicted every year, despite 95,000 people suffering the trauma of rape. Between 60,000 and 95,000 people are estimated to be raped each year. Most of them women.

These are stubbornly low conviction rates for sex crimes, and showcase the difficulties in persuading victims to go to police in the first place.

I think this should be looked at a bit broader. As I said, we are quick to judge and we tend to tarnish people as guilty until proven innocent. And much of this comes down to the media. There are some great reporters. But it tends to over-hype a situation and so often steers people's views in a clear direction. Once you've been tarred with that negative media brush, it doesn't ever leave you.

I can completely emphasise with those people that are genuinely innocent and are bombarded with cruel accusations that aren't true. But at the same time suggestions such as anonymity tend to come from the belief that there are a large number of false allegations in rape cases. That is not true.

Research shows that rapists are often repeat offenders with multiple victims. Police often publicise defendant's names in order to encourage witnesses to come forward. So I can only think that this suggestion would be yet more detrimental to the justice system which already tragically fails rape victims.

 

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