This is the official blog of Sgt Ellie Bloggs, a real live police sergeant on the front line of England. It's not the official opinion of my police force, but all the facts I recount are true, and are not secrets. If they don't want me blogging about it, they shouldn't do it. PS If you don't pay tax, you don't pay my salary.


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Monday, March 15, 2010

A Stern Reiteration

Baroness Stern clearly understands the issues surrounding rape. She seems like a pretty reasonable woman in her report on the subject today. And any sane voice on the matter is to be welcomed, given that when it arises all commonsense usually goes out of the window on both sides.

I won't reiterate what I say here on Channel 4's website, but unfortunately I don't think the Stern report has much to do with the problems surrounding this particular crime, even though a lot of what she says is right. And the cynical attitudes I talk about often on this blog are only a symptom of far wider cynicism within society: as a group the police are probably more educated on the subject than the wider public.

What I find strange is that when it comes to serious assault, kidnapping, child abuse or armed robbery/burglary, everyone is happy to accept that the victim may be traumatised and therefore present a confusing account, that they may delay reporting the crime, and may exhibit inappropriate emotions/behaviour. When a victim of rape does the same, she is making it up.

It is doubtless down to the fact that rape is the only crime I can think of that hinges on consent (the word 'consent' actually appearing in the statute). The existence of consent or otherwise is actually what criminalises the act, rather than the act itself. But I am not convinced this is such a grey area as people think. Baroness Stern points out that 60% of rapes charged are convicted. In specialist rape courts this is somewhere between 70-80%. Which suggests that in fact the matter of consent can be proven simply by listening to both sides of the argument, backed up by circumstancial evidence of distress, background, etc. In the cold light of a court-room, rape does not come down to a fumbled drunken mistake, but juries feel able to make a clear distinction in a majority of cases.

Should we therefore be charging more rapes, or is it because we are selective in the ones we charge that the conviction rate is reasonably high? My opinion is that where there is a basic case against the defendant swinging only around the issue of consent, and the victim desires a prosecution, then if there is no obvious evidence to indicate the allegation is a lie, the case should go before a jury in a specialist court. It is not for a prosecutor in a dusty office to bury him/herself with his own moral fibres and condemn a victim to the archive without due process in a court of law.

The conviction rate might go down, but it would take away the element of one man/woman's personal prejudice. And if police officers saw more cases going to court, they might not approach them with the resigned attitude that they "aren't going anywhere" before they have even tried.



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'Diary of an On-Call Girl' is available in some bookstores and online.

39 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The vast majority of rape allegations are false; e.g. see, ...

http://www.harrietharmansucks.com

15 March, 2010 20:20

 
OpenID policeboy said...

Just seen you on channel four news. Nice hoodie!

PB.

15 March, 2010 20:44

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tend to agree but a bit worried by her idea that victims should be dealt with by the NHS who would be responsible for obtaining the forensic evidence, or that was how I read it. My own recent example of how this might operate would not go down well. I was referred to a consultant via my GP after a routine eye examination by an Optician who explained that he was required to do so by NICE guidelines. Got my appointment in due course which the following day was duly cancelled after 'an examination of the information supplied by the Optician did not merit an examination' and see the Optician again in six months.
Now just imagine......................

15 March, 2010 22:37

 
Blogger Crime Analyst said...

Ellie,

Having read your post, your Channel 4 article and the piece by the Baroness, I feel you deserve to be complimented on the quality of your views as expressed.

From this mans perspective at least, I can't recall ever reading a more informed and educated opinion on this difficult area.

The specialist court concept seems long overdue in terms of delivering justice, both to the victim and the wrongfully accused alike.

Not knowing anything about it, does the specialist court have the benefit of specialist barristers and Judges? I hope so.

Not sure what the job is like these days, but twenty years ago, though often sympathetic we lacked the expertise to adequately provide justice and all too often as you pointed out, real victims would often be left feeling more deeply scarred by the process.

Though in its early stages, we can only hope that a compassionate yet thorough inestigative process will have long term benefits.

I guess the day is some way off when the girls employed in the sex industry will get the required degree of specialist investigative care that is needed to distinguish the burden of proof in their often complicated circumstances.

I have a great deal of sympathy for those whose profession doesn't always mean that consensual sex is the end result. In too many cases the male involved takes advantage of the weakness in the process and yet another victim is created. The misguided view still exists that if a girl is in any way engaged in the sex industry, then she must accept that sex against her will may be a consequence of her work.

As you have described so clearly, circumstances can all too often cloud the issue of consent. If the specialist courts can bring clarity and justice to more of these cases, then I for one, hope that they become the blueprint for all such cases that proceed to trial.

15 March, 2010 22:51

 
Anonymous ginnersinner said...

Ellie, I disagree. It's not just about wether consent existed, but wether the accused 'reasonably believed consent existed' (sec 1(1)-(3) Sexual Offences Act 2003), and this is where the problem lies.

In cases where a woman has given off all the signals which suggest she is consenting, when in fact she doesn't, then the accused should and will be acquitted.

When a woman thinks after the fact that she didn't 'really want to' then the accused should and will be acquitted.

In both of the above cases, the woman will still think she has been raped, when in law she hasn't. Does that mean a rape has gone undetected, or that it hasn't happened in the first place? It's problematic, as every single group campaigning for improvement in rape convictions has as their starting point - mistakenly - that every woman who says that she has been raped, has in fact been raped. This is clearly not the case.

Additionally, the Police are in a horrible position. It's their dual job to:-

a) believe the victim, treat them with dignity and compassion and listen to their account, but

b) consider that the victim's version of events might in fact not be the true course of events and challenge it with enough robustness to ensure that they do in fact have a decent chance of conviction where a rape has taken place.

These two conflicting duties are from whence come accusations from victims that the Police 'didn't believe them/take them seriously' when in fact all they were doing was their job as investigators.

Once you take out the stranger attacks, and those clearly involving force, I would venture that there is no such thing as a 'basic case swinging only around the issue of consent' (there are plenty that swing only round the issue of consent, but none of them are basic), and it is probably down to the fact that a lot of allegations in fact DO come down to a 'drunken fumbling mistake' that the overall allegation-to-conviction rate remains down around 6%. It appears that what you want is for every woman who says 'I didn't consent' to have their day in court, but I think that, if that did happen, the occasions on which judges threw cases out of court with a swift 'how did this ever get here' would increase exponentially, and would that do good things or bad for the reputation of the justice system in terms of its treatment of rape cases?

A colleague of mine spent a weekend attached to a sexual offences unit, took three allegations, and was able to prove categorically in EVERY case that the victim was either lying or being seriously economical with the truth. A witness like that would last five seconds in the box, and that takes me back to my - almost - original point - the sad fact is that not every woman who says they are a rape victim is in fact a victim, and of those who are, plenty more fall by the wayside as their judgement is clouded for one reason or another.

16 March, 2010 00:01

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cool, level headed, rational & well written stuff.

I wish people like you, Gadget, Grumble & Co. were running the place instead of these pathetic rosette wearing loons.

Ray.

16 March, 2010 08:12

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some of the greatest cynics I have spoken to are the SOLO officers that are the initial investigaters in these matters. These are nearly always female officers with many years experience. The reason is that the majority of allegations they deal with are fabrications and that they spend alot of time and effort for nothing.

Whilst I agree that due to the particulary devastating nature of the crime we should have more specialist systems in place to assist the victims and bring more prosecutions we should be very careful in taking the statistics at face value. I would like to see in the interests of fairness more figures published on the numbers of allegations shown to be spurious. I believe to the majority of the public that would be very shocking reading.

PC. A Hunn

16 March, 2010 09:35

 
Anonymous NottsSarge said...

I have read this and your C4 post Bloggsy, and I agree wholeheartedly with your sentiment.
Unfortunately the cynicism persists, but how could it not when to some, a (false) allegation of rape is no different to a (false) allegation of domestic violence which is intended to remove the male party from the house that night, to be dropped in the morning when the 'IP' has woken up/sobered up.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not supporting the perpetrators of DV, still less rape, but there is a section of society who will use the Police and any other public body that is on hand to achieve their short-term goals. Every officer could name 3 or 4 such individuals or addresses on their patch. This doesn't mean, of course, that these people can't be wictims of DV or rape, but they have already undermined their own case by crying wolf - hence the raised eyebrows if and when they make such reports.

I am always pleased when we secure convictions for rape, it's possibly the worst thing a man can do to a woman. I have dealt with the minefield that is the rape of a prostitute, and seen a conviction secured. We are so much better at this than we once were, and it frustrates me when activists try to claim otherwise. Of course there is work to be done, but not just by us.
I can't find the infamous Thames Valley 'investigation' on YouTube. Maybe just as well, it makes me cringe. Things HAVE changed...

16 March, 2010 09:52

 
Anonymous Shijuro said...

if you believe the stats - the real problem is the 66% of initial reports that are dropped because of lack of evidence (sorry to mention evidence- but I've always thought of it as quite important in criminal investigations) and the victim withdrawing the complaint.

Now, given that this leaves only 33% that may or may not go the way of the dodo... the only way to impact the 66% is to either lower the evidence threshold for conviction (a MEGA-dangerous thing to do) or force initial complainants to go to court even as hostile witnesses - a cruel and unusual thing to do IMHO.

Neither of those factors are workable.

We are left with the problem that rape- by definition- is usually a one on one type of offence and if there is no other supporting evidence- assault etc it is really down to WHO THE COURT believe...

Not really down to the Police. In my experience, we treat EVERYONE reporting rape with care and tact.

It saddens me to hear that we are now accused of doing nothing and treating rape victims like they made it up.

16 March, 2010 11:22

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for speaking out Ellie.

I was a prosecutor with the CPS but had a lot of defence experience too in the Crown Court. I was raped by my husband and subjected to years of other abuse. I was completely unable to fend for myself .The CPS were wholly unsupportive. They left me o prosecute the very offences of which I was a victim.

The local rape unit was headed by a total muppet with no CID experience who had been sidelined after screwing up elswhere. The so-called rape specialists in the office were ignorant, insensitive and inadequate.(Ask any judge who can speak openly and he/she will tell you how crap the CPS realy are here).


I lost my job due to PTSD and depression.Worse that b*st*rd still walks this planet and occasionally I have to bear the sight of him in town. I still have nightmares and am sick of listening to the CPS and police management saying how wonderful they are with rape cases.

I hope independant rape advisors do come into being and care of victims is taken away from the amateur bunglers who deal with them now. I hope I might be able to be one of those advisers too.

16 March, 2010 19:06

 
Blogger English Pensioner said...

The genuine cases of rape aren't helped by the number of false allegations in the past couple of years. It is my view that a woman who makes a proven false allegation should receive a far more severe sentence than they have in these recent cases. It is these women that are causing the police and juries to disbelieve what has taken place in the genuine cases.

16 March, 2010 19:38

 
Anonymous NottsSarge said...

EP - I agree but that gets the Rape Activists jumping up and down, saying it dissuades women from coming forward for fear that they would be prosecuted if the case isn't proved.
For something so serious, the consequence of malicious reporting should be equally severe.
To be honest, that should go for any proven malicious/false reporting but that's straying from the point.

Anon@19:06 - We have independant advisors who can be approached through the Police or self-referred. They offer support, advice and many of the other elements that genuine victims deserve. They also refer every case to us, whether the IP wants Police involvement or not. In turn, that generates MAPPA involvement, DV specialist involvement and various other measures. This happens even with uncooperative IPs. The system is in its infancy but is a massive step forward. There are also specialist DV/Rape lawyers to whom the cases are referred, assuming they have prompted a full investigation.
We ARE better than we were.
That doesn't mean that cases are any more proveable, or that we don't get just as many false reports - but as ever we are just one cog in the machine.

16 March, 2010 22:24

 
Blogger WeePeeCee said...

ginnersinner: Could you expand on this please?
"In cases where a woman has given off all the signals which suggest she is consenting, when in fact she doesn't, then the accused should and will be acquitted"

It's just that my knee-jerk reaction is to shout at you and I don't want to do that before I'm sure I haven't misunderstood what you're trying to say.

17 March, 2010 00:34

 
Anonymous shijuro said...

anon-sorry to hear you suffered such a horrible experience... I was treated badly by my own Police force when I reported a DV case some years ago... they just didnt believe me...

I know it must stick in your throat when you hear SMT saying 'we are doing better' but we are... as my stats teacher once remarked, 'one sample makes poor statistics...'

I hope its better for you now...

17 March, 2010 08:43

 
Blogger PC Bloggs said...

ginnersinner, I agree, what exactly do you mean? I do not buy into the theory that it is possible to make a mistake as to someone's consent. It isn't rocket science. And I have not investigated any rapes where that appears to be the defence. The only very difficult cases are those within a violent marriage/relationship, for example, where one partner (usually the woman) has learned to go along with sex to avoid a beating. Very often these women would not consider that rape themselves, although sex carried out to avoid violence could be construed as such - especially because the man will probably be aware that is why she is consenting.

17 March, 2010 09:42

 
Blogger harriet said...

@PCBlogs "I agree, what exactly do you mean? I do not buy into the theory that it is possible to make a mistake as to someone's consent."

Women can, and do, change their minds after sex.

Women can allege rape for all sorts of malicious reasons.

They are not all angels, you know.

Finally, as a woman, how do *YOU* know what it is like to be in a man's shoes?

How many heterosexual women have *YOU* bedded or flirted with?

NONE - would be my guess.

17 March, 2010 11:05

 
Anonymous ginnersinner said...

WeePeeCee/Ellie - I shall expand

Here is the law defining Rape - it comes from section 1 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

(1)A person (A) commits an offence (of rape) if—

(a)he intentionally penetrates the vagina, anus or mouth of another person (B) with his penis,
(b)B does not consent to the penetration, and
(c)A does not reasonably believe that B consents.

(emphasis added)

Note that 1(c) here allows A (the accused) a legal defence on the basis that he 'reasonably believes that B (the complainant) consented.

That defence will largely be based upon how the complainant was behaving at the time of the offence. If she gave off all the signals to suggest she was consenting even if - in her own mind - she was not, then it's highly likely that the accused can say he reasonably believed she was consenting. To put it bluntly, if she gave him the come on or lay there and allowed him - however passively - to continue with the act, then in his mind she has consented, and so long as his belief is based on reasonable factors, then he is entitled to be acquitted.

It's not always about whether the victim ACTUALLY consented, but whether she gave the impression that she was so consenting.

I know I'm a man, so I'm looking at it very differently, but I disagree with Ellie on this. There have been cases publicised where a man and a woman have had clearly had sex, she says it was rape as she didn't consent, he says she did. Short of requiring the woman to sign a consent form beforehand the law has got to allow the man some measure of presuming consent should the circumstances so allow it, and that is what sec 1(1)(c) is about.

Factors which will negate reasonable belief of consent are now laid out in secs 75 and 76 of the SOA 2003. If the complainant can show that violence, threats of violence or certain other situations existed, then the accused's honestly held belief can be presumed not to exist.

17 March, 2010 20:35

 
Anonymous Cabbage said...

PC Bloggs, I have little experience of the criminal justice system and absolutely none of dealing with rape or allegations thereof, but the issue interests me greatly, especially given that many government figures apparently indicate that most allegations are false.

What would interest me most is a (real or fictitious) case study of a 'typical' rape that goes to trial where conviction hinges on determining the lack of consent; what are the circumstances of the sex (according to each party), what's the relationship between those involved, and what evidence is there for either side besides the word and demeanour of those involved. Also, what exactly do we mean by rape? Do we mean that either physical force or the threat of violence was used by the man and that the woman was either resisting or in actual fear of harm, or do we mean something else? The use of the terms 'acquaintance rape' versus 'stranger rape' has always given me the impression that the acts are fundamentally different in some way besides the relationship of the attacker and victim (or else why even have different terms, which we don't have for any other assault crimes?); is this the case?

As for the points ginnersinner raised, I guess I can imagine a situation where consent would be ambiguous, if for instance you had a scared and submissive woman who initially said no but after reassurance or persistance by the man, stopped and silently but reluctantly went along with the wishes of her partner without physically resisting. Also, I bet if the woman did go to police in such a case, both sides would lie to try and make their case sound more clear cut and you as the investigator would be presented with a straightforward claim of total consent versus one of no consent. Does this sound like a plausible situation or do I have too much of an imagiination?

17 March, 2010 22:14

 
Blogger PC Bloggs said...

Ginnersinner, thanks for the law lesson, I know the definition of rape. Having debated long and hard about this subject on numerous occasions, I understand the difficulties in proving rape and gathering evidence of consent or what was in someone's mind. The case hinges on the words "reasonably believed". That is a matter for a jury. However it is my personal belief that confusion over consent is only confusion in court. The two people involved know the truth. I can't understand the relevance of pointing out cases where sex has been proved and it is one word against the other, we all know that this is the crux of rape. My point is nothing to do with the proveability of it, it is that I believe the vast majority of men are in no doubt whether a woman is consenting or not. The vast majority of men are not rapists and therefore find it hard to imagine the mindset of one.

Cabbage, what government figures are you talking about? If you are talking about charge/conviction rates, you may as well use those to say that government figures show that 90% of burglaries are false allegations, because we never catch the criminal.

It's not a particularly apt comparison, but the point is that rape is a very hard crime to prove and so you would expect a low conviction rate. That has nothing to do with the rate of false allegations - estimated at about 3%, by the way, the same as for all other crimes.

17 March, 2010 23:51

 
Anonymous NottsSarge said...

I think, Cabbage, that you've fallen into the same trap as the media on this one.
False allegations are exactly that, it was made up, never happened, was alleged for the gain of that individual (quite prevalent in prisons) etc.
The problem is the number of undetected rapes i.e. nobody is charged with the offence, having reported it to the Police. We're not saying they have or happened, and as Bloggsy has stressed, that's not for us to decide, but getting to the stage of putting the job before a court is often very difficult. That's before the trial even gets underway.

Bloggsy - A better set of figures might be Rapes reported/Rapes charged/Convictions. I'm no great lover of stats but these might illustrate a point

18 March, 2010 09:14

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

PC Bloggs, Ginnersinner,

The subject of rape is far to important and emotive to have a sensible reasoned argument about, so stop it immediately. You might stumble upon a workable solution, and then where would the politicians be?

18 March, 2010 09:25

 
Anonymous Shijuro said...

All true Bloggsy...

I have had talks with 18-yo son and even (in VERY general terms) to 11 and 9 yo sons about 'personal space' and 'your body' etc...

I do this because - I fear for the future - of my sons...

I suspect that eventually the lobby boys/girls will get their way and the rape threshold will drop.

Men (and some women) will then need to get a little form printed with the words. 'I consent to sexual contact/intercourse - signed........' in case of changing consent - its better to have it recorded... another form -i know- but you cant be too careful...

on a serious note- I KNOW two things- by the def of rape given and expanded on above- I , as a man, have been raped in the past by women -when I changed my mind during sex, effectively withdrew consent.

Also, that if the bar was lowered- at the time of my divorce- my ex would have almost certainly- accused me of rape... she accused me of everything else!

I hope some common sense is generated... somewhere...

18 March, 2010 09:33

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I suppose, for my 2p, that the reason behind the high conviction rate but low prosecution lies with the massive expense of jury trial. One supposes the CPS takes one look at a case and decides the cost effectiveness of each based on the chance of a conviction.
While it may be desirable to remove this pre-case filter, if that's what you suggesting, or at least lower the threshold, one wonders where this money will come from and will not, as you may have pointed out already, actually reduce confidence in the system rather than raise it, given the number of likely not guilties.
It was interesting, and a bit depressing, to read the recent survey if attitudes to rape. Women, it seems, have a very unsisterly and unsympathetic attitude towards female victims, believing there must be some measure of blame borne by the victim.

18 March, 2010 11:48

 
Anonymous Steve D. said...

Bloggs – Having investigated many rapes, I agree that as a rule both parties are well aware of whether consent has been given. I suspect some men still don’t understand that a female who is comatose due to alcohol cannot give consent, yet all men know that a female similarly affected by Rohypnol and the like cannot give consent.

I am surprised at your false allegation estimate of 3% though. When I think of all the women who came to us reporting they had been raped, I recall a large proportion consisted of, prostitutes who hadn’t been paid, wives or partners who were retaliating against their man due to infidelity and/or many other reasons, revenge for some other unrelated incident, psychiatric patients with long histories of false reporting rape because of their particular illness (having the best known psychiatric hospital in England on your ground didn’t help that one), partners who had a little too much to drink and thought sex was a good idea but regretted it in the morning, the same partners whose other half found evidence of sex in the morning and so his partner reports rape, and the list goes on.

To be fair, it is extremely rare for any of the above to actually get anywhere near court and most cases are resolved within a day or two, but the Police are quite rightly required to treat each and every case as legitimate from the start. I would definitely advocate some sort of legal deterrent for false reporting in the above type of cases (except the psychiatric illness example), although I’d hate to have to write the legislation because it seems impossible to make a legal distinction between those reporting malevolently and those whose cases cannot be proved, unless of course they admit it.

18 March, 2010 12:01

 
Anonymous Ben said...

@ P.C. Bloggs:
On the C4 website, you are not, I think, saying that there have been no false allegations in cases you worked on. In fact you seem to be quite careful not to say that, but say "in zero of the cases can I be sure that no rape happened". This is not at all the same thing.

Perhaps you think all allegations, however weak the evidence, should be placed before a jury, for them to judge on the facts. I can understand that view, though I do not agree with it. It may be that you have a policy as an investigator of believing the victim, wherever possible, and this may be wise as a policy, but it is not reality.

In comments you say:
"the point is that rape is a very hard crime to prove and so you would expect a low conviction rate."

That is exactly correct.

"the rate of false allegations - estimated at about 3%, by the way"

That is not correct.

I believe the figure you are using is from the report "A Gap or a Chasm". If you read the report carefully you will see that this is not an estimate of the actual number of false allegations, it is an estimate of the number of allegations which should have been coded as false allegations, had Home Office coding guidelines been followed.

The report says that Home Office guidelines state that crimes should only be coded as false allegations where the complainant admits that the allegation is false. I do not know whether this extremely strict standard is the same for other crimes, but obviously this will not include all allegations which are actually false.

In fact, 9% of allegations are coded as false allegations. Why? Perhaps the complainant admitted it, but not on the record. Perhaps there was other evidence which proved it to be false. Perhaps the officer momentarily forgot coding guidelines and put down what they honestly believed to be a true conclusion, well supported by the evidence.

(The figure was 12% of the 80% attrition at police stage, http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/pdfs05/hors293.pdf).

"Victim withdrew" and "victim declined to complete initial process" account for 14% each, and "insufficient evidence", which the authors say often went to the credibility of the complainant, was 17%. Some of those surely must also be false allegations where the complainant thought better of it?


The point is, contending that the true rate is only 3% is unsupportable, in my opinion. I cannot see how it can reasonably be thought to be less than about 10%, and above 20% is far from impossible.



In the comments you also said:

"The vast majority of men are not rapists and therefore find it hard to imagine the mindset of one."


No doubt since you are neither vindictive or a liar, you find it difficult to imagine the mindset of one who is? Why is it so easy to believe that some men can rape, yet so hard to believe that some women can lie? Men are not the only sex capable of wickedness.

Some men do commit terrible acts of violence, including rape. But false allegations are the violence of the weak. What a slight frame cannot do by force, can be done with a lie.

18 March, 2010 18:30

 
Blogger PC Bloggs said...

Steve D:
"Prostitutes who hadn't been paid" - it is of course crucial whether they were expecting payment before or after. If someone refuses to pay, then consent for sex is withdrawn, but if the consenting sex has already taken place then it's not rape. Just because someone is a prostitute and withdraws consent (before/during) because they don't get paid, does not mean someone is allowed to rape them. In my experience prostitutes hate to have anything to do with the police, they know they won't be believed, and they will only report rape if it's so violence and horrendous that they feel they have to.
Retaliation: That may be your opinion, or your prejudice. Yes, there are total idiots who think reporting a rape is a good type of revenge, but I really think you've fallen into the myth-trap if you think that's common.
Psychiatric illness: absolutely fair, but vulnerable and mentally ill people also get raped frequently.
Regret: again, just your opinion.
My point is, you weren't there and you'll never know, so why should your own morals and prejudices assume that these people are lying.
As for the credibility issue, one of my points is that it depends on how you assess credibility. I had a rape case dropped because the woman was deemed non-credible because she had gone home with the guy (with another friend to smoke cannabis actually), and hadn't reported it immediately, and had washed. I'm not saying it makes for an easy conviction, but all of those factors are totally credible when you heard her account, and it is only the prejudices of the CPS assuming a jury won't believe her that led to it being dropped. In actual fact she was one of the most credible witnesses I ever dealt with.
The point is to get out of this mindset that people make up rape allegations more commonly than they make up other allegations. The dregs of society will make up anything to wage war via the police on their family/other half/enemies, that's life. Rape is no different.
When it comes to proving things and laws of evidence, well that's where things get tricky, hence the debate. But lack of evidence or your own belief that someone is not credible, does not give you the right to label a massive percentage of potential traumatised victims as liars. We all act differently after trauma, quite often in very implausible ways. It's about being open-minded: because of course there are false rape allegations, as well as false burglary/robbery/assault allegations.

18 March, 2010 22:07

 
Anonymous ginnersinner said...

Ellie, there's really no need for that tone - you asked for an explanation of my comments, and I gave one.

The point I'm trying to make, and I think you're missing slightly, is that consent doesn't have to be explicitly given, - it can be inferred by the man given all the circumstances, therefore it is not really 'confusion' on his part at all. You're right that deciding on 'reasonable-ness' is a matter for the jury ultimately, but if the accused says 'she allowed me to remove her clothes, allowed me to do certain other things to her and allowed me to have sex with her while neither resisting nor doing anything to suggest she didn't consent' and the accuser says 'I did in fact do those things but I didn't really want to, although I didn't say anything at the time' then I think we'd be naive to think that's even worth putting before a court.

Lack of evidence or a belief that someone is not credible is not the same as labelling someone as a liar at all - it's simply taking a realistic view of how the case will be seen in court. If it is blindingly obvious that - despite what the victim says - there's no chance that a jury will convict, shouldn't we be robust enough to say so? You would do the same in a case of theft or burglary no doubt - and on this I'm in agreement with Ben - it seems to me that you think it's acceptable in a rape case to simply put every case before the court and let them decide - when you would never ever do so with many other crimes.

I also have a nagging doubt in the back of my mind about specialist 'rape courts' If this is staffed by people with special experience/knowledge of the behaviour of rape victims post-incident and they are trained to take that into account when assessing the evidence, is there not a hint of 'guilty until proven innocent' starting to creep in. If the panels/juries in this court are sympathetic to the victim from the start, you might argue that they are not impartial or starting from a presumption of innocence.

18 March, 2010 23:32

 
Anonymous Cabbage said...

PC Bloggs, you asked what figures I was talking about. Shamefully I didn't check my information before posting, and in fact there are no statistics I know of showing what I claimed. However, I just looked into the issue a bit more and found these notable stats:

http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/pdfs05/hors293.pdf
See page 40.

Table may take a couple of minutes to understand, but if I'm getting it right, out of 2284 reports of rape to the police in the study, 216 (about 9.5%) were false allegations (I'm not quite sure how this is defined but presumably it means cases where the accused is able to credibly demonstrate their innocence). The victim also withdrew their complaint in 318 cases, although I appreciate that if most rape is relationship rape then that may not mean the accusation was false. My instinctive feeling, not backed up by any evidence, is that since most rape cases hinge on the matter of consent and a woman would be vastly more likely to accuse you of raping her if you had in fact slept with her, so most of those falsely accused would have no evidence in their defence. As such, my instinct is that the actual rate of false allegations must surely be several times higher than 9.5%. You may disagree.

Also, some stats of note in this (quite old, 2002) document:
http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/pdfs2/hors237.pdf
Page vii, apparently only 20% of rapes are reported to police. (I've seen lower figures quoted, especially by feminists, the lowest being 5%.) If the 20% figure is true, it would have to be the case that there are 5 times more actual rapes than false allegations just for 50% of allegations to be true, or 50 times more actual rapes than false allegations for 90% of allegations to be true. Given how much more psychologically difficult it would seem (to me) to be to actually rape someone than simply make a false allegation, again I feel like this is unlikely but I really don't know.

Finally, I was interested by the figure on page 53 of the same document that "only three-fifths of victims whose most recent incident could be classified as a rape using the follow-up questions actually self-classified the incident as 'rape'." I considered this quote to be of particular interest because it is clearly at odds with your earlier assertion that those involved in the act clearly know whether it was rape or not. I'm confused though because I was inclined to think that what you said must surely by common sense be true because I don't understand how there can ordinarily be any ambiguity over whether the woman was forced or not.

I hope those references are of some interest to you.

By the way, I would still greatly appreciate it, if you have the time to spare, if you could describe a 'typical rape' just to put it in context because to be honest all this makes me wonder if I even really understand what rape is. Until recently I'd convinced myself firmly that all the stuff I was taught in PSHE at school about having sex with a girl who has been drinking and/or doesn't give explicit verbal consent automatically being rape was a load of balls, but these stats about even women not being sure whether their experience constitutes rape makes me doubt myself again.

Can it still be rape if the woman is conscious and no physical force or threats of violence are used?

P.S. I love your blog, it's always an interesting read and I agree with most of what you say. I hope I don't seem hostile or interogative, that's not my intent.

18 March, 2010 23:32

 
Anonymous Cabbage said...

Just thought I'd mention that I typed out my last comment before seeing the last batch of comments that were published, which is why I've duplicated some of what was already posted and linked to. Sorry.

18 March, 2010 23:39

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ben said...False allegations are the violence of the weak. What a slight frame cannot do by force can be done with a lie. Hmmmmm!

As a child of six, with a "slight frame" having been a non-consenting victim of rape since the age of three, and a witness to the sexual abuse done to other children, including abduction and a fatal rape of a little girl; I found myself in the greatest of danger in the clutches of the paedo who had abused me for years and who intended to take my life.
I fought with him, by kicking him, repeatedly in his legs. He made three attempts one particular day. The second and third attempts he made were with a cushion over my face. I managed to kick him in his knees to get him off me.

I damaged his knees fighting for my life. I was lucky that he didn't use his fists on me, and his justification for wanting to end my life, was "orders" from his paedo mates, and "compassion" for me, because he told me I would have a "terrible life". He had seen how girls who had gone through what had been done to me, turned out, usually addicted to drugs, he said, and on the game.
It's a long story, but I had a very lucky escape from a serious situation, and didn't end up as a prostitute, nor addicted to drugs.

The "men" who had abused myself and others told the lies, and said that I was making it up. They were "respected professionals" in law and order, and I was just a kid, whom it was pointed out to me, nobody would believe. My parents didn't want to believe what had gone on, and were also frightened by the situation.

However, other relatives believed me and contacted the Home Office, as I was a child special constable when this happened in 1957. There were numerous victims of these paedophiles, and special branch officers got some of us together to arrange a long term police operation to deal with the problem.
The plan was, for us to tackle the problem of child sexual abuse when we grew up, and to bring down the ringleader of the paedo ring who had abused us. And we did. Job done.

19 March, 2010 03:16

 
Blogger PC Bloggs said...

I think I'm not making the right point. Ginnersinner, you are talking about a real life situation from the perspective of a fly on the wall, a situation that you imagine takes place and could result in a rape allegation.

You are supposing that allegations abound where the woman has said nothing either way but "didn't really want to". There are some allegations like this, and most women I interview accept that a prosecution is not going to happen and don't expect one, but wish to report it because if a man is repeatedly involved in situations like this perhaps he is someone we should be watching. Perhaps. But actually most rape allegations involve resistance of some kind, even if just verbal, and a threat of some kind by the offender.

There is a presumption if you are a woman defending those who allege rape, you must be a feminist who thinks all men rape and that they should ask a list of questions prior to sex. I am not one of those people. I believe that 99% of men know full well if a woman is consenting, and if she isn't partaking happily in the act would stop and check what's going on, or would not be terribly interested in continuing themselves.

At no point have I said that situations as you described should result in prosecution, but I take issue with the assumption that rape allegations stem from those situations with any regularity.

As with any argument, there are always exceptions that are held up as examples that this must be a mass phenomenon. Think about the vast number of drunken men and women who go home with each other every weekend in Britain. Many must change their minds or make a mistake and they either go home or go through with it, either way it's no concern of the police. Where a woman, vulnerable through her own doing or outside factors, encounters a predatory sex offender, there your issue arises. On the facts, the situations may appear alike, but one is rape and was always going to be from the moment of the encounter.

How to unpick this for proseuction is the issue.

19 March, 2010 09:38

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is an interesting debate Bloggsy, and a very enlightening one, on such a delicate subject.

Over 36 years ago, as a young newly-wed with a small baby, my husband demanded sex one night when I was just totally shattered from a really busy day. I said that I was just too tired that night, but he kept on insisting that he wanted "it". I must have said NO about 10 times, and he took no notice and started groping me, whilst arguing with me and insisting that I, as his wife, had to "submit" to his will and authority.

He informed me, that as my husband he wanted his conjugal "rights" and forced himself upon me. I was not at all responsive to him or what he was doing to me, and just lay there whilst he satisfied himself. I felt used and abused, and couldn't hold back the tears, which he didn't notice until he had finished. He asked me what was the matter with me and why was I crying. In 1974 it wasn't against the law for a man to force his wife to have sex against her will.

What he did to me that night, killed all the feelings I had for him and the marriage broke down. I recall how stressful the separation was, and the divorce, as he turned very nasty, despite our aggreeing to a "no blame" end to the marriage. To add insult to injury, he smeared my reputaion within our friendship group, and stole an endowment life insurance policy which named myself as the beneficiary and cashed it for himself. And there was more bad behaviour, but ONLY after we were married, which got even worse after we were divorced, regarding our daughter. Arrogant Sexist Pig springs to mind, when I think of how he treated me. None of it was ever reported to police.

When I think back to that time and his attitude, I suspect that he decided to character assassinate myself to create a smoke-screen for his bad behaviour. Not long after we separated, it became a criminal offence for a husband to rape his wife. Thank goodness for that small mercy to protect women from selfish Ba$t&rds. I'm not bitter, I just loathe him, still.

I had bent over backwards to keep it civil between us after the divorce, for the sake of our daughter, but he poisoned that relationship by using her as a weapon to constantly snipe at me and blame me for the breakdown of the relationship.

How does one explain to a small child, or even an older child, that her dad raped her mother and treated her very badly, and that is why the marriage broke down?

19 March, 2010 22:29

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a woman, my understanding of the term "rape" has always been that a man penetrates with his penis, without the other persons consent for this act. And as a woman, I cannot quite get my head around the concept of a woman "raping" a man. Nor can I understand the mind set of any female who had that intention in their head. From my own point of view the enjoyment of sex is in being wanted and appreciated.

Perhaps I am naive, but it has always been very clear to me when a partner is not in the mood, because the male "equipment" just doesn't "stand up", if you will pardon the pun! If a man doesn't want to, then I really cannot see how he can be forced to "perform".
Unless he was tied up unable to move, and she used her mouth to bring him to a peak. That would be rape by a female I suppose, but hardly a satisfying experience for the woman if the man did not enjoy it. Or as hilighted on a popular soap this week, if the man was given the date rape drug by a woman and he was totally helpless.

I really do hope that none of the above happened to Shijuro. Truly.

19 March, 2010 22:52

 
Anonymous Shijuro said...

I worked in a PPU so have some experience of this subject.

you said,-
Retaliation: That may be your opinion, or your prejudice. Yes, there are total idiots who think reporting a rape is a good type of revenge, but I really think you've fallen into the myth-trap if you think that's common.

myth-trap?

I guess I imagined my ex- making an allegation that I had assaulted her? I imagined being interview by the cops? reading their 4-page statement containing no evidence?

It goes on more than you may think.

Dont forget - that person has been ARRESTED - had house searched? car searched? Job notified?

Have an intelligence file with the words 'arrested -susp rape' on.

Had to tell friends and family they have been arrested for, what most sane people would say, is the most invasive and disgusting of crimes?

I think there are more of the 'changed minds because they knew they may face arrest themselves for pervert the course of justice' cases than you or I may like to believe.

No-one normal would say rape is anything but the worst of crimes- however, given the complex nature of the crime- I think we do it as well as we can.

Most MOPs have no real idea of evidence gathering- they only see CSI Miami and The Bill- cosy story lines wrapped up in an hour with millions of quid of forensic teams waiting to do the most painstaking job etc...

We know THATS not the reality of the situation.

The low conviction rate is down to the crime as much as the court/Police/CSI/etc...

it is unhelpful to suggest otherwise.

20 March, 2010 11:47

 
Blogger PC Bloggs said...

"The low conviction rate is down to the crime as much as the court/Police..."

I couldn't agree more and have said so on numerous occasions (http://pcbloggs.blogspot.com/2008/03/truth-about-rape.html). But there's little the police can do about that, so there's not a great deal of point talking about how to improve things from that perspective. Far from being unhelpful, it is important to consider the things we CAN change, whilst not expecting miracles.

Unfortunately once you express a view, such as thinking most rape victims are telling the truth, everyone assumes you are a raging feminist who hates men, or that you don't accept there are ever any false allegations. Ears close and blinkers come on, even when both parties to the debate are actually on the same page for 99% of their argument.

20 March, 2010 15:12

 
Blogger staghounds said...

I have to disagree about one thing. My experience has been that "perfect victim/perfect witness" behaviour is more and more demanded by triers of fact, and the more serious the crime, the more likely imperfections will be held against the victim or witness.

Everyone knows that juries often discount homicide cases where the dead person is doing something of which the jurors disapprove.

Robberies of store clerks are much more likely of conviction than street robberies.

And you have seen a thousand times how defence lawyers berate victims or witnesses when they eventually err or fail to recall some trivial factlet, with the suggestion that their entire description is false.

"What do you mean, you couldn't tell if the handle of the knofe was black or brown! You claim he was stabbing you with it at the time, how could you not see that? If you WERE getting stabbed..."

You know I agree with you that rape is WAY difficult to try. But a lot of it is preparing jurors to deal with rape victims and their pre/post/testimonial behaviour as they would expect their own to be.

In voir dire, especially in rape cases, I spend LOTS of VERY interactive time with jurors about that.

"Mrs Smith. I'd like you to think back to your wedding. Was it a fairly big deal to you? (Assume she describes a standard, everyone is there wedding.)Did you have a brother there? No? How about a cousin? Tell me, did he wear a necktie? What color was it? Alright, that's fine, I understand that you don't remember. You had other things on your mind. My question is this. Does the fact that you can't remember the colour of your cousin's necktie mean that you are wrong when you say he was there? Or about whom you married? Or that you didn't get married at all?"

It takes a bit more time and effort, but it really makes a difference.

20 March, 2010 23:58

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shijuro stated that he "KNEW" that he had been raped in the past by women. Whilst not wishing to offend Shijuro in any way, nor disbelieve his claim, that he was raped by women; I cannot help thinking that perhaps he is confusing the act of seduction by a woman, with the act of rape.

Having said that, I can see the argument, that having been seduced and aroused by a woman's touch; but then changing his mind about full intercourse, when the woman's passions are in control, yes, a man could find himself being raped.

Perhaps this is the situation with a lot of cases? That it is flirting, attraction and seduction, initially. But when passions are aroused people become irrational and can lose all sense of reason. They have an itch that must be scratched, once aroused. But no does mean no, and THAT should be respected, whatever the gender, or the relationship between adults.

Perhaps a lot of people who do get into a bad situation, which turns sour because things go too far, and a rape takes place, were just looking for affection.

21 March, 2010 01:56

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe that 99% of men know full well if a woman is consenting, and if she isn't partaking happily in the act would stop and check what's going on, or would not be terribly interested in continuing themselves.

Yes, exactly. We don't just say no with words, we say no by crying, looking horrified, freezing and being completely physically unresponsive etc. When you're physically this close to someone you can see and feel their reactions, you know full well what you're doing. Rape isn't a misunderstanding.

Abusers tend to forget what they do and distort reality so that when they say "But I honestly thought she was up for it!" they don't see themselves as lying because in their warped minds, that's what happened. It doesn't mean that they didn't recognise this at the time.

Thanks Ellie for again breaking the silence around rape, and against myths that exist in the police.

Sarah

23 March, 2010 17:38

 
OpenID allcoppedout said...

Lots of people involved in rape events are pissed or on drugs - SAFE centre staff report this as a major problem. I think victims across the board suffer because there is false reporting and evidence is usually not very obvious amongst claim and counter claim. Scumbags know this and take advantage, whether a victim is trying to get something done about scrote families or Jack the Ripper.
Police and other agency officers are also too often part of the problem because they get used to all this and begin to stereotype and know it is easy to write-off much crime as in this pattern, from antisocial behaviour to very serious crime like rape.
All of us are actually very bad at telling who is telling the truth and usually think we are pretty good at it, making matters worse.

Broad improvements in police investigations and those of other agencies would help, as would special courts and representation for victims from the outset instead of junk mail about victims' support. On rape, a lot of the rest is about changing the culture the rapists come from. I still know men who think you can buy a woman with a few drinks and that an under-performing wife needs a good slapping. I also know a few women who are impressed by these men. Sad stuff, but true.
We might do better to distinguish violent rape from other kinds too, though unbelievably to most of us, some are consensually involved in even the former and worse.
Sad thing about the report is it suggests not much real advance in 20 years.

26 March, 2010 09:06

 

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