Treatment of Rape Victims

Via Pandagon, I just discovered the fascinating blog PC Bloggs, written by “one very hacked off [UK] policewoman”. She gives helpful tips for rape victims here and she compares instructions given to officers responding to rapes of men and women here

Incident 1: Caller reporting her 17-year-old daughter was raped last night by two named offenders after going out drinking at her local pub. Daughter is very distressed and sore. Update from supervisor: Officers to attend and establish the following:

  • 1. Is the daughter making an allegation?
  • 2. Names and descriptions of alleged offenders.
  • 3. How much alcohol was consumed?
  • 4. If allegation is being made, locate scene.
  • 5. Will the victim attend court?
  • 6. If allegation could be true, will she consent to a medical?
  • Incident 2:Caller reporting her 18-year-old son was raped last night by a male known to him, following a party at his house. Son is in pain and upset. Update from supervisor: Officers to attend and establish the following:

  • 1. Locate the crime scene.
  • 2. Arrange medical examination and take victim to rape suite.
  • 3. Name/description of offender.
  • 4. Preserve forensic evidence, seize clothing.
  • Obvious inequities here, and it’s outrageous, as well as important to see.  But it’s worth noting that the instructions for Incident 2 probably would have been very different if the victim was returning from a gay club, or if the victim was in prison.

    7 thoughts on “Treatment of Rape Victims

    1. There are various perspectives one can have in reading the two sets of instructions. From a somewhat impersonal perspective, the differences and the injustice they reflect are so obvious.

      But if one tries to occupy the position of the female victim, one might catch a glimpse of why – many activists claim – so few rapes get reported. Anyone with the wit to foresee the treatment could well decide not to add to her misery. The reactions prescribed are so close to what perpetrators threaten: No one will believe you, you will be regarded as a troublemaker.

      Of course, nothing says the investigations should arrive at such horrible conclusions, but the instructions clearly allow that that’s all quite possible.

    2. Interesting point on PC Bloggs’ blog advice for what to do to maximise chances of conviction if being raped:
      ‘Specifically use the word ‘Stop’. Today’s case law has proven that ‘No’ is not good enough, nor is crying, struggling or lying stiff and terrified in the hope it will go away.’
      So even legal precedent accommodates the thought that ‘no means yes’?

    3. I’m not so sure whether this is such a straightforward double standard as everyone seems to be assuming. Suppose we tallied all the allegations matching either incident-type. Would you expect to find an equal proportion of false allegations in both columns? (Do a significant number of men make false rape claims?) If not, i.e. if you have grounds for thinking “incident 2”-type allegations to be almost certainly genuine, then there may not be the same epistemic need to double-check in establishing the facts of the case. In other words, the difference in treatment may reflect a difference in reality, and not mere bias.

      (P.S. I hope you don’t mind such “devil’s advocate” comments. I know it wouldn’t be welcome at, say, Pandagon. I’m assuming you lot don’t mind good-faith disagreement so much, being philosophers and all. But if I’m wrong about that, and such comments are not welcome after all, just let me know.)

    4. Richard, devil’s advocate arguments are very important, so no we don’t mind them. 2 empirical problems with yours though: (1) you’re buying into the claim that women make lots of false rape allegations, and my understanding is that that is a myth; (2) surely the best procedure would be to treat all complaints as legitimate at the time of response, and the see what comes out while investigating them (rather than treating a group of people with scepticism just ebcause of their sex– what Fricker calls ‘negative identity prejudice’). Both men and women find it very difficult to make rape allegations, and need to be treated with respect by those responding.

    5. Jender, fair enough — I certainly agree that complainants should always be treated with sensitivity and respect. I don’t think that’s necessarily incompatible with epistemic investigation though (even right from the start). Though it could be if done badly, for sure.

      It’s worth noting that the differential treatment is not “just because of their sex” though. As you note in the main post, “Incident 2 probably would have been very different if the victim was returning from a gay club“. Or, I expect, if the alleged offender had been female. Much turns on the prior probability that the two people in question had consensual sex. If the offender is not even of the sex that the accuser is (believed to be) oriented towards, then that presumably lowers the probability.

      On your first point, I’m not sure what “lots” comes to in this context, but all I was assuming is that there are sufficiently many false allegations of this type, to make it a possibility police investigators need to take seriously and rule out (for Incident 1 but not Incident 2). But yeah, I agree that whether differential treatment is ultimately justified will turn on empirical factors that I’m in no position to assess here.

    6. Discovered this thread rather belatedly, but thought you might be interested to know that the percentage of false allegations of rape is about the same as for any other offence (robbery, burglary etc) and is thought to be about 3%. I believe it is the same for male rape. The issue in my view is still one of consensual sex: just as much chance the male victim consented despite the fact that he isn’t “out” nor admits to being curious. I just treat them all as genuine and I’ve never had a case where I could categorically say it was a lie!

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