June 01, 2010

Letter to Chris White, MP for Leamington, on the law to give anonymity to rape defendants

Writing about web page http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/may/21/anonymity-rape-defendants

Dear Chris White,

You are now my MP and I have a problem which I would like some help with. I am an academic researching in the field of violence against women and I am strongly opposed to the proposed move to give anonymity to rape defendants.

Rape conviction rates are still under 10% and most rapists “get away” with their crimes. The failure to properly prosecute rape cases and convict rapists tends to be attributed to two factors: the prevalence of “rape myths” in public opinion and the judicial system; and the intimidating tactics of defence teams in rape cases which refocus the attention of the judge and jury on the moral fibre of the rape survivor rather than the rapist. Juries can be influenced too by their perception of the victim’s character, behaviour and possible drug or alcohol use. In a British poll conducted by Amnesty International in 2006, substantial numbers of respondents blamed the survivor for her own rape if she was drunk (37%), if she was wearing sexy or revealing clothing (26%), or if she had many sexual partners (22%). Juries are more likely to find a rapist guilty in cases where the assailant is a stranger, where a weapon is used or where the rape survivor has sustained physical injury. All of these responses reveal the power of rape myths surrounding women’s consent to sexual acts.

Passing a law to give rape defendants anonymity would boost the widely held belief that most women who report rape are lying. Such a law cannot be defended either with an argument about false accusations of rape, because the latest research on false rape allegations has found that the figures are around the same as with other crimes, but no one is suggesting that all defendants have anonymity.In addition, in the UK, if a woman is found to have made a malicious accusation of rape, she loses the right to anonymity and media coverage of false allegations far outweighs reports of men arrested for rape. Finally, I would suggest that in recent cases of serial rapists, the publication of rape defendants’ names has encouraged other rape survivors (who previously were too ashamed or frightened) to come forward (e.g. the John Worboys case ).

I hope that these facts clarify matters. In addition, as my MP, I hope that you will represent my view and refuse to pass this retrograde law, which only compounds the problems that already exist in trying and convicting rapists.

Sincerely,

Dr. Zoë Brigley Thompson


- 12 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

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  1. karl

    OK, so let’s break this feminist promoting misandry down to it’s base…

    First off, you’re studying ‘violence against women’ which implies that somehow it is more important than violence against ‘other people’, like men or children. Men are the primary victims of all violence from men & women alike, yet feminism teaches that violence against women must be considered first and foremost while violence against men should be ignored. Well, when I look up ‘feminism’ in the dictionary, it claims to be about equality – yet I consistently fail to find where feminism looks for true, legitimate equality. It always seems to be seeking a form of ‘selective equality’ where women benefit over men, time after time.

    The 10% conviction rate you lie about holds no truth, at all. Harriet Harman (feminist man hater) recently got publicly spanked for her constant ballooning of the rape conviction rates and misinforming the media & public. Further, the feminist methodology of studying rape conviction fails to discount those confirmed as false rape claims. Why on Earth would feminists want to misrepresent data aside from playing the eternal victim or falsely portraying men as abusers… well, neither of the aforementioned come as anything new from feminist circles. Of those that go to court – some 60% result in convictions… Hardly the 10% you’ve claimed. Are you aware that rape is the ONLY crime which has a unique method to work out the conviction rates? Why does it need it’s very own method? Someone with an eye for detail may hypothesize that feminists are trying to make things look worse than they really are.

    There is no ‘widely held belief’ that women are automatically lying when they say they’ve been raped – yet more feminist lies trying to portray women as eternal victims. When the media release information about rape cases, it is very, very rare they use the word “alleged”, thereby promoting the assumption that the accused is guilty.

    There is no reason why other rape victims could not come forward once an accused has been found guilty. What feminists are doing is nothing short of demanding inequality to women’s benefit and insisting on continued preferential treatment for women. As feminists have demanded anonymity for women equality demands that the accused be given anonymity too UNTIL proven guilty (assuming the accused IS guilty).

    I hope these REAL facts have clarified matters for you and your viewers.

    As someone who wishes to see TRUE equality, as oppose the feminist form of selective equality, I hope to see this law passed. I would not want to see my Son’s life destroyed over a false allegation.

    02 Jun 2010, 17:09

  2. Hi Karl, see my response here: http://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/zoebrigley/entry/debating_anonymity_for/

    02 Jun 2010, 23:19

  3. By the way, Karl, I would add that you may not realise it, but the way you talk about Harriet Harman in the above post is sexist. You would never say that a male politician had been ‘spanked’. The way that you talk about her is directly influenced by her gender and is also very rude and disrespectful.

    03 Jun 2010, 12:49

  4. Gavin

    Zoe, your argument seems to be twofold: (i) the proposed law will lead to people being more likely to believe that rape victims are lying; and (ii) it will reduce the likelihood of other rape victims coming forward.

    I don’t think the second point is a good one. Presumably the anonymity will be rescinded if the accused is convicted? The publicity you link to about the police hotline for victims of Worboys case seems to be post-conviction.

    On your first point, do you have any evidence for this? It seems rather implausible to me that any significant number of people would even know about the law change should it come about, let alone that it would change their views on the matter. (When was the last time your opinion was altered by a change in the law?).

    03 Jun 2010, 20:48

  5. Hi Gavin, thanks for your comment. My argument is related to the points that you mention, but also to my belief that there should be anonymity for all defendants or for none. This law proposes to give defendants in rape cases anonymity, but (forgive me for repeating this) no one is suggesting that anonymity should be allowed in the case of other crimes. So what are the government and alw courts saying? That rape survivors (who are mainly women) cannot be trusted as much as other victims of crimes? What the law is suggesting that women reporting rape cannot be trusted and that male defendants must be protected. This is very unfair as there are no more false accusations of rape than there are of any other crime.

    Regarding the Worboys case, an article that I read in The Times suggests that a large number of women did come forward due to publicity during the trial. Writing on the day of Worboys conviction, Adam Fresno wrote for The Times: “Since his arrest, 75 more women have come forward to tell police they believe that Worboys attacked them too, including four from Dorset, where he had a flat and would sometimes take his taxi.” The article suggests that at least a few of these women testified in court along with the original 12 cases brought to trial. The police believe that Worboys actually raped over 500 women.

    03 Jun 2010, 22:07

  6. Gavin

    I suspect the reason why the “anonymity for all defendants or none” argument is unpersuasive is that with all the other offences you mention the accuser does not get anonymity. Presumably the argument is not that rape survivors cannot be trusted, but rather that, all things being equal, the anonymity of those involved in a trial should be symmetric.

    I’m surprised by your second comment. Are you saying that women who alleged that Worboys had raped them testified against him in an unrelated case? Surely such testimony wouldn’t be admissible? I’m not a lawyer or anything, but I do know that you cannot use a defendant’s criminal record against them in a criminal trial, so it seems odd that you can use against them an allegation which has not yet been tried.

    04 Jun 2010, 00:28

  7. The Times article seemed to be saying that the Worboys case began with 12 women who alleged that they had been raped, but more women testified at the actual trial as cases were uncovered.

    04 Jun 2010, 01:23

  8. karl

    “By the way, Karl, I would add that you may not realise it, but the way you talk about Harriet Harman in the above post is sexist. You would never say that a male politician had been ‘spanked’. The way that you talk about her is directly influenced by her gender and is also very rude and disrespectful.”

    Please do not tell me what I would or would not say about a male anything. I know precisely how I speak, you do not. I use the term ‘spanked’ an awful lot to talk about politicians in general, the male and female types. Pushing your misandric drivel down my throat and accusing me of sexism is utter projection and dishonesty on your part, I suspect it is an attempt at shaming me into agreement – a typical feminist method of controlling others.

    08 Jun 2010, 11:48

  9. Well, if I were you, I would take care about the kind of language you use, because, apart from being infantilising and rude, “spank” has some uneasy sexual connotations. It is irrelevant whether you are ideologically opposed to Harriet Harman. No one deserves to be spoken about in such a rude manner.

    08 Jun 2010, 17:06

  10. gavin

    Zoe, just to clarify the Worboys thing. Is it your understanding that the testimony of women who came forward because of the publicity of the case was presented in court and used to convict Worboys? As I say, based on my Kavanagh QC generated legal knowledge, I don’t really see how that’s possible (surely it would be inadmissible?). This seems to be the crux of whether pre-conviction anonymity is a good thing or not, so if you can shed light on it that’d be helpful.

    09 Jun 2010, 09:20

  11. This is what the article seemed to imply, but my expertise is in the humanities not law. I am going to find out though.

    This point though is not the crux of the argument against pre-conviction anonymity for defendants. But rather than repeating myself, I will simply quote again what I said earlier:

    Anonymity should be for all defendants or for none. This law proposes to give defendants in rape cases anonymity, but (forgive me for repeating this) no one is suggesting that anonymity should be allowed in the case of other crimes. So what are the government and alw courts saying? That rape survivors (who are mainly women) cannot be trusted as much as other victims of crimes? What the law is suggesting that women reporting rape cannot be trusted and that male defendants must be protected. This is very unfair as there are no more false accusations of rape than there are of any other crime.

    09 Jun 2010, 16:30

  12. I am now ending this conversation, as I have discovered that someone has been reproducing my blog entries and comments on this subject on a website (of anonymous members) devoted to “anti-mysandry”. This has been done without my permission along with my name and a link to my blog! If anyone wants to drop me a line to discuss, however, feel free.

    10 Jun 2010, 13:12


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