This is the official blog of ex-Sgt Ellie Bloggs. I was a real live police constable then sergeant for twelve years, on the real live front line of England. I'm now a real live non-police person. 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 (or didn't) pay my salary.

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Friday, May 20, 2011

The Myth Perpetuates

For some reason otherwise intelligent and sensible people turn into ranting lunatics as soon as the word Rape is mentioned.  Politicians start blithering, feminists start burning things, and police officers make fools of themselves.

Here are some phrases I have never heard on walking into CID:
  • "You know, most burglaries are a load of rubbish.  They just never happened at all."  
  • "Real street robbery is so rare - most of the time the victims just regretted walking down that dark alley." 
  • "What a waste of time investigating any stabbing, they always withdraw their complaints in the morning."
I live in the real world, and blog about it. 90% of the people who use up 90% of the police's time are benefit-claiming, unemployed, binge-drinking, drug-using or simply criminal.  Tax-paying, law-abiding, hard-working folk have very little contact with us, and when they do they often apologise for bothering us with their problems.

Every day, false reports of burglary, robbery and assault are made, and withdrawn.  Motives range from insurance claims to domestic revenge, to drunken confusion or mental vulnerability.    Even taking all this into account, the best estimates are that 3-4% of reported crime is attributable to false allegation.  There will be another few percent that are suspected false but cannot be proven either way.  The police spend a disproportionate amount of time dealing with this tiny percentage of false claims because the type of people who make them are the type of people we spend most of our time dealing with anyway.

We all know this.  And yet, for some reason, seasoned detectives and brand new probationers alike seem to think that rape is somehow different.  That "real" rape is so rare, and hidden, that you cannot expect to come across a proper example throughout your career.

There's also a lot of hysteria on the feminist side of the debate.  Phrases such as "rape is rape", "any woman can be raped", etc, are particularly unhelpful.  The refusal to acknowledge that most rape victims fall into certain categories (mentally ill, alcoholic, repeat victim) means that those categories are not educated and protected the way they should be.  It also means that the police take the flak when prosecutions fail, when the fact is that no case could possibly succeed when relying on the evidence of someone who is inarticulate, incoherent, incredible, or just plain unlikeable.  It doesn't mean they have lied, and indeed if you're going to rape someone they're a good choice, for all of the above reasons.   But to expect convictions in those cases is unreasonable.

Likewise the oft-quoted 5-6% conviction rate for rape is utterly misleading and unhelpful.  It includes every rape reported, which definition covers third party reports where the victim never wanted to involve the police at all.  It includes women who wake up drunk in a state of undress and call the police because they fear they may have been raped but aren't sure.  It includes the mentally ill, who report rape but aren't entirely sure what rape actually is.  There is no malice in these reports*, but only the occasional one reflects an actual rape and they will never result in convictions - nor should they - and they should not be held against the police or anyone else.  *(Yes, it also includes false allegations that cannot be disproved.)

Where can this debate go next?  Is it, as Inspector Gadget suggests, simply the fact that the media is not ready or able to have an intelligent conversation about it?  Can anything constructive come of it, when as soon as you dissent with the majority view, you are written off as hysterical?  Can the debate even take place, when the majority view is itself taboo?

All I know is, rape is real.  More common than murder, rarer than assault.  And controversial at its core: from the debate surrounding it, right down to the act itself.
On the plus side, here are some myths that are, categorically, untrue:
  • The police treat underage sex as rape.  In fact, reports of underage sex where both parties are under 18 will normally not even be crimed.  If they are, it will be "sexual activity with a child" (or words to that effect) and a prosecution will depend on the age difference, the vulnerability of the parties, and the views of the victim.
  • The police will not prosecute false accusations of rape for fear of putting off genuine victims.Where evidence exists that proves the allegation to be false, the police do prosecute.  They will not, however, prosecute women who report rape just because they withdraw the complaint, are inconsistent, or because the investigating officer has a personal opinion that it's a load of bollocks.
  • If you report rape, you'll be called a liar.  Despite all of the above, police forces are professional in dealing with rape and will investigate every report.  Yes, some officers may have their doubts, and may discuss it with their colleagues.  But all the enquiries that need to be done will be done, and attitudes are improving all the time.  If your rape can be proved by realistic means, it probably will be.
Next time: proof that there are indeed rapes and RAPES - the incomparable case of Bristol rapist Ross Parsons.

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


Anonymous Andrew Wimble said...

Now that ssomething you don't see every day, a ballanced article about rape that doesnt insist of jumping to one extreme and running with it.

20 May, 2011 16:33

Anonymous Anonymous said...

At least Ken Clarke opened up the debate about RAPE, and as per usual most people "shoot the messenger" rather than actually listen carefully to the content of what is said.

He is right in saying that "date rape", where the person is known to the victim, can be different to other forms of rape, so I can understand his reasoning there.

My daughter was "date raped" by someone she considered to be a friend, when she was a naive teenager. He misread her friendly attitude and warm personality as a signal that more was on offer, when it wasn't. She kept saying NO, but he just forced himself on her, and she didn't fight him off, because she "froze", due to the shock of it, I think.

I asked her if she wanted to report the incident to police, when I was informed what had happened to her, but she didn't want to do that. I think the embarrassment of having to give details to a stranger and all the fuss that would be involved put her off. She put it down to experience. I had to explained to her that she must be very careful in future, because a lot of males misinterpret a girl being friendly, as some sort of "come on" for sex, even when that is the last thing on her mind.

The ordeal of an investigation and a possible court case over the incident, would have caused her more stress and upset than the original offence. So, in that sort of situation, I can see the argument for some sort of plea bargain for the offender admitting their guilt of "date rape" at an early stage.

But the whole idea of someone who brutally rapes another person getting a reduced or light punishment, is morally wrong.
I really do not think that the outrage about that idea was "feminist hysteria". Far from it actually, as some of the women who were voicing their objections to the idea being mooted, pointed out that MEN, and children of both sexes, are also victims of rape.

The rape of a child, or a man, is no less important than the rape of a female. One female victim of rape who spoke to the BBC, was very concerned by Ken Clarke's comments, because she, a GP, had been raped by a repeat sex offender the day after he had been released EARLY from prison.

Not all victims of rape are drunks, or on drugs and nor are they mentally ill or mentally subnormal in some way. Vulnerable people are often kind, caring and sensitive. It is the selfish and less "noble" type of persons, who take advantage of the vulnerable.

They ALWAYS have done that.

21 May, 2011 03:27

Anonymous Not Long Now said...

Well said..... couldn't agree more.

21 May, 2011 06:17

Anonymous ginnersinner said...

Also, there's a difficult line which an investigating officer has to walk when investigating any crime, rape included. It's his job to believe the allegation, and find out if there is enough evidence to prove it, but also to consider - for two reasons - the alternatives. He has to consider that, for example, the crime did not happen, or did not happen the way the victim alleged it:-

a) so that if it's brought up as a defence then it's easy to bat away, and
b) he's obliged as an 'impartial' invstigator to consider it.

Asking a victim, any victim, difficult and robust questions to assess the probity of their account is hard enough when you're investigaing an assault or a theft, but a nightmare when dealing with a rape. How do you say to a person 'The suspect says you consented, what can you tell me which will help us prove you didn't' without some victims taking that as an accusation that they're lying, is not something I'm sure I'd know how to do. What I do wonder is what proportion of rape victims who say 'I don't think the Police believed me' are actually simply assessing the above as disbelief, and how many were faced with the 'Oh really' approach.

21 May, 2011 14:25

Anonymous Anonymous said...

too true. Comes back to the good old ABCs: assume nothing, believe noone and challenge everything.

I would dispute the second assertion re. prosecuting false allegations. Having investigated many a false allegation (proved and certain) a policy decision has been made in all cases NOT to prosecute.

21 May, 2011 20:35

Blogger PC Bloggs said...

Anon - there are some cases where they won't be prosecuted. A good example is the mentally ill/victim with learning difficulties, who doesn't really grasp the repercussions of the allegation. Or cases where the victim is subject to ongoing violent abuse by the suspect - not an excuse for a lie but perhaps mitigates it.

Malicious allegations will be proseucted if there's a case, but they are subject to the same test of public interest/evidence as all crime. I suppose I should have put "the police will usually try to prosecute".

22 May, 2011 00:07

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"In fact, reports of underage sex where both parties are under 18 will normally not even be crimed."

Considering the age of consent is 16 I'm sure most people are glad you're not criming everything between under 18 year olds......

23 May, 2011 05:55

Blogger PC Bloggs said...

Last anon- ie a 17yo sleeping with a 14yo.

A 21yo sleeping with a 14yo might be treated differently.

23 May, 2011 09:51

Anonymous Borka Borka said...

I think I'm right in saying that in Canada they have a '2 year difference law' for under age sex. So long as it's consensual you're both within two years of each other it's not statutory rape.
I'm sure that in a lot of cases some sort of child support might get involved – but it's a case for social workers rather than criminal courts.

25 May, 2011 15:11

Blogger English Pensioner said...

I tend to think the feminists are the main cause of the matter not being sorted out with their "Rape is Rape" attitude, which effectively excludes any logical discussion of the subject.

If we follow their argument with all crimes, then "Murder is Murder" and the abused wife who kills her violent husband should get the same sentence as someone who kills in the course of a robbery. But no, mitigating arguments are allowed in the case of murder, so why shouldn't they be allowed in cases of rape?

26 May, 2011 23:21

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good post.

27 May, 2011 12:57

Anonymous Bagpuss said...

PC Bloggs - very sane and balanced commentry.

I think the only point I would take issuewith is your suggestions that statemetns such as "rape is rape" are unhelpful.
I fully accept that, as with other kinds of assault every case is different, and some will have more mitigating or aggravating factors than others. But as you pointed out, rape does involve a lot of 'victim blaming' which does not happen with other types of crime (I am not accusing the police, I am talking about attitudes to ape in society generally) There are still an awful lot of people who think that rape isn't really rape if the rapist was a partner or former partner of the victim, or if the victim was drunk, or had been flirting, or had been wearing revealing clothes, or had had numerous sexual partners. I think it is becase those attitudes are so widespread that the message that "rape is rape" and that rape can happen to anyone ARE still really important.
I think that suggesting they are unhelpful does (albeit obliquely)add to the perceptin that only some kinds of rape are really rape.

I don't think that the 'rape is rape' message means, or should be seen as meaning, that evey rape is identical or that every rape coould or should have exactly the same outcome.

I think we are very much on the same page with everything else you've said in your post!

27 May, 2011 13:04

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can't see what is "unhelpful" about stating a fact.
Rape IS Rape, it isn't the Fandango or the Waltz. It is someone FORCING another person against their will, to have sex, the victim having told the horny person NO.

But yes, there are "degrees" of seriousness involved with the actual act of rape, and how forceful or violent it was, and whether or not it was done by a stranger, a friend, husband, partner, or an ex.

The basic violation of a rape remains the same, regarding the distressing impact it has on the one who was FORCED to have sex against their wishes, and the humiliation which goes with that.

The RAPE of a child, especially a young child, should receive the harshest, longest and most severe form of punishment. So HOW some politician could even think that any sex offender should get a reduced sentence for an early guilty plea, just beggars belief.

Clearly there is something SERIOUSLY WRONG somewhere, for any government to even contemplate halving the sentences for a violent crime like rape, or any other crime against the person.

These politicians are supposed to PROTECT THE PUBLIC INTEREST, not leave the public vulnerable because they allow pathetic short sentences and early release of dangerous criminals.

28 May, 2011 05:06

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unfortunately my local rape unit actively encourages uniform to challenge rapes where there's any inconsistency including outright calling them a liar. This is incredibly dangerous considering how many police officers believe myths about rape and that victims are often unstable service users who present poorly. I've also seen people given fixies for wasting police time based on the OIC having "a feeling" that it's a lie. I guess your rape unit is just a lot better than mine!


28 May, 2011 11:09

Anonymous Noggsy said...

Excellent post Bloggsy, with some really well-balanced and articulate points made. I am a reactive jack, who takes all sexual offences very seriously. I try to walk the line between treating rape as a special category of crime (in terms of the inevitable impact on the victim) and not ignoring my investigative mindset, as per every other crime I deal with.

There is a complete unwillingness in my force to engage in any kind of discussion about how to challenge or deal with allegations which are either false, or have such massive inconsistencies in them that they can almost be considered false. I have had some fantastic inputs from outside speakers (have you ever met Zoe Lodrick? An amazing woman, who changed a lot of how I deal with victims), but internally, we are running a bit scared of this issue I feel.

I think that we are doing much better than we did in the past, but still have a long way to go. Keep blogging, I always enjoy reading what you write, especially about this topic.

02 June, 2011 12:16

Blogger Stuart said...

'Despite all of the above, police forces are professional in dealing with rape and will investigate every report.'

Well, the former is a matter of judgement, whereas the latter - though much as we might like it to be so - you (nor i) simply have no way of knowing. Balanced?

05 June, 2011 08:19


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