One Person's Word
Unfortunately there are some hysterical quotes such as: "rape cases are 'not a priority' for busy police and prosecutors" and "But what is the point... [when] the defense contends that the sex was consensual and the jury is told to be sure beyond a reasonable doubt?" The first is simply not true and the second is somewhat unavoidable.
Crown Prosecutors are loath to charge rape in my area if one of the following applies:
- The woman was drunk.
- She was seen kissing him earlier in the night.
- She has communicated with him before/after the offence.
- She voluntarily went with him somewhere private.
- She is uninjured.
- She delayed reporting it.
- She isn't sobbing when she speaks to police.
Our court system was founded on the concept of one person's word against the other, to be aired in front of a jury of their peers, who decide who they think is telling the truth. If there is other supporting evidence such as witnesses, CCTV, bad character of the defendant, there is always going to be a better chance of conviction. But just because there aren't these things, does not make the allegation untrue, nor does it mean you won't get a conviction.
How many rapes do you imagine take place where the victim has not voluntarily gone somewhere with the suspect, where she does not know him, has not communicated with him? How many where she isn't drunk? Sadly this is the reality of rape.
I await the slew of commenters asking me how I expect people to be found guilty based on the above, whether I recommend reducing the burden of proof, whether I think all men are rapists. I don't.
But I do expect Crown Prosecutors and courts to have a vague glimmer of understanding of the circumstances under which rape occurs - where a woman (or man) has perhaps considered sex initially, been flirtatious or at the least naive, and then been raped. These victims (the majority of rape victims) don't have injuries because the attack has been insidious, with intimidation or the situation used to control them rather than force. It isn't the same as being snatched off the street - which frequently results in serious injuries or murder. It shouldn't probably be sentenced as severely. But it is still rape.
If it is one person's word against the other, you may not get a conviction at court. But if on the face of it the allegation appears consistent, surely the decision should be made by a judge and jury and not by one Prosecutor in a dingy office on their own? At the very least, the next time the offender rapes somebody, you will have the whole evidence of the previous case against him.
The stories quoted in the article make me angry: not because the defendant wasn't found guilty or because I believe that the investigations were as sloppy as is suggested. But because of the fact that these victims were made to feel worse than if they had never reported being raped at all.
Then again, maybe that is the real crime of rape. And maybe it is those who commit rape who should be blamed for it.
'Diary of an On-Call Girl' is available in all good bookstores and online.