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25/11/2005

Rape and the Power Complex

A recent court case in Wales has brought the issue of rape and informed consent to the fore again. This follows hot on the heals of recent research by Amnesty International which suggests that certain members of society think intoxicated females should accept a certain degree of responsibility if they are raped.

It is deeply disturbing that such views have risen again. A number of years ago, a judge commented that the length of a victim's skirt could have provoked her attacker. I believed that such ignorance had died away. It appears not.

Rape is thankfully still a rare crime. To be raped by a stranger is rarer still. Rape is a crime of violence and power. It has little, if anything, to do with sex. It is a crime predominantly committed by men against women.

Our recent training told us that consent given while in a position of vulnerability, ie drunk, was not satisfactory consent. This differs slightly from the recent case where the alleged victim could not remember whether she had given consent or not. This area is a legal minefield. Our legal system as it stands will not allow for this issue to be decided upon to the satisfaction of all interested parties.

Rape is, by it's nature, often an offence that is only witnessed by two parties: the victim and the aggressor. Consent is the natural defence of the accused. The balance of proof lies totally on the prosecution. They must prove beyond reasonable doubt that the accused committed the offence charged. This is the same for every offence from not wearing a seatbelt to murder. This is the very basis of the legal system in this country. Although not satisfactory in the case of rape, any changes would lead to false convictions. It is a sad fact that people are convicted on the basis of lies, and that guilty people avoid punishment for a variety of reasons.

I would argue that the only solution lies in the attitude of society to women. Many cosmetic changes have been made in the last few decades, but women remain disadvantaged. In many areas of this country, both within the home and without, women remain subservient to men. Their lives are controlled in various ways, from their manner of dress to the type of employment they adopt (if any) to the friendships and associations they form.

Power is exerted in several ways. Male dominance of women is the exertion of power. The acceptance of this attitude, whether subliminal or complicit, causes wider problems in our society. It leads to physical and mental abuse which by default leads to and encourages the offence of rape.

If society can tackle this issue, rape will be tackled. Then the issue of informed consent will be one for the history books.

10 comments:

Argos_Employee said...

I can't believe it but I was your 1000th visitor!

Good job on the blog!

Regards

Argos_Employee

Anonymous said...

I agree with everything you have said. I remember reading an article about rape in one of the women's glossies in which a Chief Crown Prosecutor said that in his view the answer to upping the rate of convictions for rape and sexual offences was to reverse the burden of proof, which I found astonishing. The problem with rape is that there are rarely any independent witnesses, it's a very easy allegation to make, very difficult to disprove, and juries are understandably reluctant to convict without very compelling evidence. It does mean that more people get away with rape and that's a terrible thing, but the answer is not to remove the safeguards that prevent a wrongful conviction.

Scott said...

I couldn't agree more with what you have to say, however it does pose an intresting questron.. How do we change the attitude of society to women? Is the ladett culter doing that? I don't think so, if anything it's draging women down to the level of us men (a gross generalisations i know).
May be it what we expect of women that's the problem, if you look at the adverts in men's mags women are shown as things for men to use (always willing and ready for it). Of course that just part of the problem, but I at least think it's a big part.

blueb0ar said...

Funny how the defence is now one of consent, the old 'it wasn't me' arguement went out of the window with improvements in DNA. Am I being cynical?

Anonymous said...

I suggest some of you read www.angryharry.com

Spike said...

It's a sad thought but rape won't be taken seriously as a crime until there's a sharp rise in the number of rapes of men by men.

Anonymous said...

Like others, I agree with most of what you've written.

However, in the recent case you speak of the defendant was acquitted not because drunken consent was considered to be consent, but because the complainant couldn't remember if she'd consented or not. The only evidence of her not having consented was her account (no applicable presumed evidential/conclusive consent as per s.75/75 SOA 2003), and so there was insufficient evidence to support a rape conviction.

In fact, her being drunk wasn't really relevant at all, other than being the reason for her failure of memory (though the media would like to portray it as being so).

Dantares said...

I don't know if I do with everything that you have said. While I most certainly accept that rape is more to do with power than to do with sex, I have a certain amlunt of respect for the view that people must, to an extent, look out for their own safety.
I can feel very sorry for that girl that she had sex which is against her wishes now - no matter what the perceived situation was then - but I canot help but feel that in all liklihood it may not have happened if she had not been so drunk. This is, of course, someone accepting the "probable" lack of malice in the young man involved - and his sincere belief that he had gained consent. If he hadn't, well, he deserved everything he didn't get.
Dantares.

World Weary Detective said...

I think you deal with the issues well. Did she not look after herself agreeing to a security guard walking her home? Did he think his luck may be in because she was so drunk? Does that make him a rapist? I don't think we will ever establish a consensus on this issue, but it is interesting to debate it.

Anonymous said...

There is of course the nightmare that some men have faced after being wrongfully accused of rape.

The law will genrally not be on his side at this point. Even the acusation can destroy someones life.