Why are women still not be­lieved in rape cases?

A year on from #Metoo, the new #Whyi­didn’tre­port move­ment proves we still have a long way to go, says Vic­to­ria Spratt

Grazia (UK) - - News Feature -

US Supreme Court nom­i­nee Brett Ka­vanaugh cur­rently stands ac­cused of sex­ual as­sault by not one, not two, not three, but four women. He de­nies all of the al­le­ga­tions. One of them – Pro­fes­sor Chris­tine Blasey Ford – gave her tes­ti­mony to a Se­nate panel. Last week she said the as­sault ‘dras­ti­cally al­tered my life’.

Don­ald Trump has, of course, weighed in. ‘I have no doubt that, if the at­tack on Dr Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been im­me­di­ately filed with lo­cal Law En­force­ment Au­thor­i­ties by ei­ther her or her lov­ing par­ents,’ he tweeted.

In do­ing so, the Pres­i­dent im­plic­itly con­doned all of the rape myths and mis­in­for­ma­tion that un­der­mine women’s cred­i­bil­ity. He con­firmed what many peo­ple think pri­vately – that women would re­port rape if it ac­tu­ally hap­pened, if they were up­set enough, if it mat­tered to them enough, if it had been bad enough.

It’s prompted women’s anger and out­rage to fly around on the in­ter­net, ra­zor-sharp and com­ing to­gether through a hash­tag: #Whyi­didn’tre­port. The tweets are up­set­ting to read, so many say­ing the same thing, over and over again: ‘I didn’t know if I would be be­lieved’.

The sta­tis­tics back us up: one in five women in Eng­land and Wales has ex­pe­ri­enced some form of sex­ual vi­o­lence since the age of 16. The very word ‘rape’ con­jures up film noir im­ages of a stranger at­tack­ing a woman in a dark al­ley­way, but we know the ma­jor­ity of rapes are com­mit­ted by some­one fa­mil­iar and, of­ten, oc­cur at home. In the UK, the per­pe­tra­tor was a stranger in only 10% of rape and se­ri­ous sex­ual as­sault cases. Yet the lat­est fig­ures from the Crown Pros­e­cu­tion Ser­vice show that pros­e­cu­tions for rape have dropped by 23% over the last year. The CPS took on fewer rape cases for the fourth year in a row, partly be­cause fewer cases were re­ferred by po­lice.

Con­ver­sa­tions about power and as­sault erupted with #Metoo. And now, they keep com­ing. In­creas­ingly, we find we are not bound to­gether by shame and si­lence but by the sto­ries we have in com­mon about the way we were mis­treated. We are think­ing back to our own ex­pe­ri­ences, the ex­pe­ri­ences of our friends – and won­der­ing about the ex­pe­ri­ences of our moth­ers and grand­moth­ers. We’re ask­ing our­selves, what would I do if I was in Pro­fes­sor Ford’s po­si­tion? If the man who as­saulted me was about to be­come one of the most pow­er­ful peo­ple in my coun­try?

We must keep them go­ing be­cause for every #Whyi­didn’tre­port story, there will be a woman who stays silent be­cause she fears she might not be be­lieved if she speaks out.

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