The Patch

March 24, 2007

Saturday 24th March

Filed under: Miscellany,Politics — Ames @ 12:15 pm

First thing’s first, sincere apologies for my lack of article last week. I would explain, but it would probably just bore you into submission… Anyway, I’d also promise a bumper article today to make up for it, but I’m afraid I probably won’t be able to deliver on that count either. Either way, here it is.The law is there to keep us safe, right? To protect us good citizens from the bad and cruel world out there. Whether this theory can be upheld in practise, however, is another matter entirely.A number of things have happened recently to make me question whether the faith we put in our police force and the law courts. While miscarriages of justice are not unheard of in the news, nor unjust treatment of both the guilty and innocent by the police, the full force of how little faith I have in our judicial system is something that only hit me very recently, after experiencing another’s distrust.

You hear about it all the time, don’t you? Women being attacked, but being too afraid to go to the police, for fear of finding out or being told that it was their fault. Up until recently, I thought that this was just stupidity on these female’s behalves. If you were truly raped, then you have a case that should go to court, right? People need to be made aware that you can be attacked, that certain people are potential attackers, so other women can keep their guard up, surely? It’s just selfish and silly not to.

Ideally, I’d still like to say that. But having heard it from the mouth of one of those people who would almost certainly not get a conviction out of her experience, I can finally understand why so many people keep their experiences to themselves. The girl I know was drunk, she doesn’t remember what the guy looked like, and only has a vague recollection of the area he lived in. She voluntarily went back to his house, after twisting her ankle and not being able to walk all the way home. He offered to take her, it wasn’t her proposition. But the police don’t know that. And while the guy could possibly be caught on the CCTV cameras of the club as they were leaving, who’s to say that they weren’t just any other couple going home for a bit of fun at the end of the night? In a situation of one person’s word against the other, when the victim is the one having to prove the person’s guilt, as opposed to the guilty having to try hard to feign innocent, she had hardly a leg to stand on. Scared of having her past dragged up, and her personality worn down by police, attacking her with questions about her decision, making her feel more slutty and filthy than she already did, the girl boycotted the police. In her mind, it would be easier to get over the incident by getting on with life as normal and not letting it get her down or change her life. Because of how the judicial system is portrayed to us as such a monster, turning people who are already victims into gibbering, self-loathing wrecks, people are afraid to report one of the most heinous of crimes for fear of being told that they deserved it. And so rapists stroll the street free, through us women who tiptoe around for fear of such creatures.

But who is to blame for this situation? The multitude of women’s magazines, running story after story about unconvicted attacks? They may be trying to persuade people to be sympathetic with victims, but are they instead frightening victims into not reporting their cases, for fear of being another person blamed for their actions? Or should we be pointing our fingers at the victims themselves? If they remain quiet, then the cases of those who DO step forward seem more unusual, they seem more like stupid, drunken individuals, and less like every other young woman who goes out on a Friday night to simply relax. We all know about the potential consequences of getting drunk, and letting our guard down around men. It could happen to all of us. We’ve all done idiotic things when intoxicated. These women are not unusual, but because so few people come forward with stories about how a case of bad judgement can lead to so much worse, these women come across as idiots, as people who just regret a one-night stand, to a jury who are not aware of what it’s like to be a young woman in society today. But it is exactly this opinion, this immediate negative judgement of women who may have had a bit to drink, or who trust random strangers as a result, which is stopping people from coming forward. Is it, therefore, the fault of society? The way in which we, as humans, are so quick to judge? The way in which other people’s misfortunes make us feel good about ourselves- we’d never be stupid enough to do something like that, right? Or is it the fault of the media, programmes like Booze Britain, for portraying ever drunken individual as a lout, or a slut? Showing people binging, portraying this as a regular occurence, suggesting that anything that happens to you after drinking alcohol is all your fault?

Or, is it ultimately the failings of our judicial system and the police to protect and aid the victim?

The shockingly low statistics of convictions for rape are familiar to many: in 2003-4, Only 21% of reported rapes even made it to court. Overall, while 13% of those taken to court were convicted of some offence, only 6% of the 11,441 reported rapes in England and Wales resulted in a conviction for rape. This leaves 10755 incidents unconvicted from just one year. The statistics for conviction aren’t improving, and the number of reported rapes is increasing. How many rapists are walking the streets free men today? How many, safe in the knowledge that they were not convicted the first time, have repeated their crimes?

It took until someone I knew to be raped to see the true extent of how intimidating an institution like the police can be. Before then, I always thought that while being raped may be one of the most horrendous experiences anyone can have, at least some good can come out of it through a conviction, justice exerted on the world. Now the world of a woman is a fearful one. We are liars, alcoholics, overly sexual beings, trying to prove our worth by accusing innocent men of rape. As you begin to research the situation, story after story emerges about victims who reported their experience, only to be told that they’re lying. Yet the court, juries and police, don’t appear to be any more leniant or understanding of such victims. The person I know is not alone in hiding their story from the world as a result. We are supposed to feel protected and safe as a result of having courts of just system of law. Instead it is intimidating, lording over us like a disapproving parent. It is the one thing that is supposed to be fair and unjudgemental is the one thing that appears to be the most accusatory and unjust of them all…

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2 Comments »

  1. Excellent article. I can’t say much at this moment because I’m sleep deprived and incoherent but you’re completely right.

    Comment by Claire — March 24, 2007 @ 4:48 pm | Reply

  2. […] Aah, see you are. You wouldn’t have clicked there if you weren’t! But enough of the frivolities, for unfortunately my article is another Rant. And once again we return to the system of “Justice” in our country. […]

    Pingback by Saturday 21st April- The Good, the Bad and the Ugly... « The Patch — April 22, 2007 @ 10:19 am | Reply


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