Many of you may have read Emily Yoffe’s advice to young women that they should stop binge drinking to prevent rape, for which she was roundly criticized. The New York Times has a ‘Room for Debate‘ forum up on the subject, and it features the ever-brilliant Louise Antony on what’s wrong with telling women not to get drunk as a method of rape prevention:
But the special risk that drunkenness poses to women – that’s due to a social climate that tolerates sexual predation. When we tell young women to stay sober in order to avoid getting raped, we send the message that we do not intend to change that social climate, that we have chosen to regard misogyny as inevitable.
That’s the message that is sent when we tell women to restrain “pleasure-seeking behaviors” in order to avoid life’s dangers. When men get drunk they get sick; when women get drunk they get sick and raped. That’s not because women are less restrained in their “pleasure-seeking” than men are; it’s quite the reverse. And that’s what needs to change.
Read the whole of her contribution here.
It was reported last week that conviction rates for rape in the UK are higher than they’ve ever been. 63% of prosecutions in 2012/13 resulted in a conviction, which is 5% more than five years previously. Similar success is reported regarding domestic violence. This is, of course, good news. However, it’s not quite a straightforward success.
First, the ‘conviction’ rate includes all convictions resulting from the prosecution, many of which are not actually for rape (someone might, for example, be tried for rape and convicted of a lesser sexual offence). In 2010/11, the actual rate of conviction for rape was 33% out of an overall conviction rate of 58%. The same is likely to apply to the reported figure for 2012/13.
Second, as the initial linked article points out, another main complaint about the legal process concerns the proportion of reported rapes which result in a prosecution. According to this article, an annual average of 15 670 reports results in an average of 2 910 prosecutions. That’s about 19%. So even if 63% of those 2910 cases result in convictions, that’s a mere 11% of the original reported total. In other words, 89% of reported rapes don’t result in any sort of conviction. Bear in mind that the Crown Prosecution Service recently released a report (pdf) which establishes pretty comprehensively that false allegations of rape are extremely rare.
Third, yet another problem with the legal process is the fact that so many people are discouraged from reporting rape in the first place. For fairly obvious reasons, statistics on under-reporting are hard to come by or verify (one estimate attributed to the Ministry of Justice in the Independent article above is 60 000 to 95 000 — that’s quite a variation between the upper and lower limits). But it’s apparent that this is a problem, and it’s apparent that even if conviction rates continue to increase, there’s a lot more to be done to improve the legal and policing environment which results in under-reporting and under-prosecution.
From the Indiana Senate debate between Richard Mourdock (R), Joe Donnelly (D), and Andrew Horning (L):
Asked whether abortion should be allowed in cases of rape or incest, Mourdock said during Tuesday’s debate, “I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God. And, I think, even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”
Mourdock has said he regrets that anyone has interpreted him as implying that sexual violence is anything other than abhorrent, but:
“In answering a question from my position of faith, I said I believe that God creates life, and I believe that as wholly and fully as I can believe, that God creates life.”
New UK law proposals today:
New prostitution laws to be set out today will mean a plea of ignorance is no defence for men facing prosecution for buying sex from a woman who has been trafficked or is being exploited by a pimp.
Under proposals to be published today by the home secretary, Jacqui Smith, a man who pays for sex with a woman who has been trafficked or is under the control of a pimp could face a charge of rape, which carries a potential life sentence.
A couple of quick thoughts: (1) It’s interesting that ignorance is no defense, since I’m not sure that’s the case with standard UK rape law. (Anyone out there know? I haven’t got time to check.) (2) One wonders how much effect this will have, given rape conviction rates in the UK (5.7%, last I checked).
The latest case in point:
‘But other women on a rape case would say she was asking for it. The only reason I can think of is that they’re sexually jealous.’
It’s been shamefully long time since I mentioned LaVena Johnson, the soldier whose apparent rape and murder seems to have been the subject of quite a cover-up. I’m mentioning it again now because there’s a petition to sign. But it’s also worth noting, as Cara does, just how slow both civil rights and women’s organisations have been to join this fight.