94% Reported Rapes Do Not End in Conviction

When I was 17 I was raped by two men. I shouldn’t have got chatting to them but I had no idea of my vulnerability at that point so I did- and twenty minutes later they were dragging me off to a thicket of trees a couple of minutes from my house. Fortuitously we moved house a week after that, from the North to the South, I became 18 and took a job in a bar. It was walking from the bus stop to my home that I was attacked for the second time. It was just a boy this time, maybe 16. He said he had a knife.
The question that’s always puzzled me about these events in my life is why didn’t I scream? I mean, both times I opened my mouth and I tried but no sound would come out. Something inside me was stronger than my survival instinct. The first thing that comes to mind is shame- shame of being caught having sex (consensual or not), being caught partially dressed- and that was there, I felt that- But not enough to quell my most primal of instincts. What stopped me making a sound was deeper than that. It needs a little backstory:

I was raised a strong, intelligent, self sufficient girl. I was just a poor little regional kid but I knew I could hold my own in conversation with the Oxbridge big boys; I could fascinate the most jaded of rock and roll casualties… My work ethic was legendary… But when I was raped my entire self image imploded instantly because I realised that for all that…. Any man who chose to deprive me of my autonomy could do. As easy as clicking his fingers.

That crisis of ego rocked me to the core and led me to question whether I had any real value at all. And it was this, I think, that choked my scream and also prevented me going to the police (in fact I didn’t tell anyone at all about the first attack for several years). I didn’t know who I was or whether what happened even mattered.

So… With that heavy in my breast I start reading the fall out from Michael Le Vell’s acquittal and people saying that it’s ‘too easy’ to accuse innocent people of sexual assault and that the victims right to anonymity is unfair and encourages the kind of mentally unhinged people capable of this kind of malicious act to pursue their nasty little schemes… Now, ok, we can apparently see an example of this with La Vell (whether she would have deviated from her course due to publicity is uncertain- for me) but, the fact is, the police and authorities consistently rate the number of false allegations as a very small minority of cases and actually, with a 6% conviction rate for reported rapes plus my personal experience, I am convinced that the last thing we need to do is make it more difficult for people to report sexual assault.

Alex Brew (spokeswoman: Women Against Rape) says “The system is stacked up against them from the very start of the investigation and in court as well.” Retrieving DNA samples from victims is a traumatic, invasive process that can only work where a woman has had the strength of character and presence of mind immediately after the attack to pursue conviction. The sympathy and support they receive from authorities can vary. Then, on the unusual occasion the case actually makes it to court, the trial is horrendous and guilt has to be proved beyond reasonable doubt which can be difficult in a situation with two versions of events.

Where the victim of Ched Evan’s identity was released on Twitter she faced a barrage of abuse from people calling her a “money grabbing slut” and “slapper” in an example of the situation a named victim can encounter. Nine separate people who originally ‘named and shamed’ her were ordered to pay £624 each to the victim and Judge Andrew Shaw stated “For reasons that I had thought were within the common knowledge of most intelligent people in this country we offer further protection for the victims of rape by prohibiting the publication of their names and personal details”. Nevertheless it is entirely possible that her experience has fed the fear of other people deciding whether or not to press for conviction for crimes against them.

Regardless of all the above, had I known at the time that I would have to reveal my situation to my family there is no way I would have pursued my attackers. For me, this is the primary arguement for victim anonymity. With hindsight, and being a parent, my privacy feels of little value compared to raising awareness. But that is my business and other victims should be able to choose for themselves- whether or not they choose to prosecute.

The other suggestion that is being hawked throughout the media and internet is that the defendant should reclaim the anonymity awarded by the 1976 Sexual Offences (Ammendment) Act which was repealed by the 1988 Criminal Justice Act. On the face of it this is a fair idea promoting equality before the law. In 2010 the coalition government proposed the very same but dropped the proposal… Unfortunately, for the likes if La Vell (who deserve the sanctuary of anonymity) there are real reasons why real rapists must not have this- firstly because it would prevent the police circulating pictures of suspects wanted for questioning or trial and secondly because, time and again, publicity pulls more victims and witnesses out of the woodwork to ensure justice is done for them too. Furthermore it seems slightly incredible to me that this fairly drastic course of action is being called for- despite the aforementioned problems it raises when all it would take from the media and public is a change of attitude- to treat defendants as innocent until proven guilty; to relinquish one major aspect of the stress and hardship innocent men such as La Vell must endure.

Whilst I can only imagine what it feels like to be wrongly accused of such heinous crimes I echo the words of the Association of Chief Police that the “welfare of rape victims needs to remain a priority” and I believe that the law as it stands is appropriate. I think we need to work on our maturity when observing trials with limited information AND I think we seriously need to educate our women about the effects of rape (psychologically), what they should do in the immediate aftermath and put some empathetic support in place to help them navigate the system and the existential crisis that develops from a modern person being exposed to this oldest of violations.

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17 thoughts on “94% Reported Rapes Do Not End in Conviction

  1. You are definitely right about victims – both that they should remain anonymous, and also that they should be given the maximum support and help when they make an accusation. Rape is an unforgivable crime and genuine victims must be fully supported in bringing their attackers to justice.

    However, I do not accept that the utter devastation caused to innocent men by false accusations is a reasonable price to pay just on the off chance that someone else will come forward. Nor do I accept that a “change in attitude” is a realistic remedy for the deluge of abuse and threats than someone accused of rape faces.

    The only fair solution is for both the victim and the defendant (who could be the real victim if the allegation is false) to remain anonymous until the trial has been concluded. The issue about circulating photos when the police are conducting investigations could easily be addressed if the law were drafted carefully.

    If the defendant is found guilty, their picture and crime can then be publicised. If there are other victims or witnesses, they would have the opportunity to come forward at this stage. The current law is one-sided and essentially punishes those accused of crimes whether they are guilty or not. And those who make false allegations know that they can cause immense damage to innocent people.

  2. Acknowledging and even empathizing with several sides of loaded topics like rape is one of the hardest things to do for the human brain. I just wanted to let you know that your ability and willingness to do so just made me a fan of you. Thank you for sharing your perspective on this!

    • Woah woah woah! I really did not want to get involved in a discussion about whether or not MLV committed the crime. I think I used the term innocent in my post but that was purely meant legally. I was not in the bed, I was not at the trial, I do not know what happened or wish to speculate.

      I wrote that article because I was genuinely very concerned that the kind of articles coming out in the tabloid press and media could lead to even more difficulty for victims in reporting crime- legally and/or socially.

      I tried to be clear about that and sensitive to not taking sides with regards to the case in question which I was only interested in as a result of the frankly ignorant and offensive and dangerous media storm that came about in response to the verdict.

      It would appear to me that you are yet another fanatical internet Feminist. If you refuse to discuss the article that I wrote, instead building a straw man to beat, I see no value in continuing our relations.

  3. Thank you for the comment n my blog and for the follow.

    For my MA thesis at the Uni, I researched and wrote on sexual abuse and the role of the Social Welfare system in my country under the Un convention of the rights of the child. My country Ghana was the first country to ratify the convention and yet nothing was done then to support the rape victim and even to rehabilitate her. That was in 1997.

    A lot has changed since then, with interventions like the Domestic Violence and Victim Support (DOVVSU) unit being set up by the govt to handle cases of abuse and others. DOVVSU has made sure that issues of rape and defilement are properly investigated and where culpable, offenders are prosecuted in court and appropriate sanctions meted out.

    It has not been easy but Ghana has come a long way from an era where rapes were not even reported fro fear of stigma. yes, some go unreported, but media reportage of incidents are on the increase.

    Thanks for being so honest and for your interesting article. 🙂

  4. There should not be public disclosure of anyone who has served their state-issued sentences. One of the problems with supporting public disclosure is the social ostracism, harassment, discrimination, and even violence against registered citizens and their families (and even against innocent people confused for sex offenders).

    Who are you to say someone who has served a sentence for a sex crime, even rape, cannot be rehabilitated? In fact, reoffense rates among convicted sex offenders is extremely low. This rate has been unaltered by the sex offender registry. Let me repeat– the sex offender list has not reduced sex crime recidivism rates. Add the fact that most sex crime arrests are of people with no prior convictions.

    The registry is not supposed to be punishment, so the US Supreme Courts claimed in the 2003 Smith v Doe case. Yet, when people like you mention “public disclosure” as a part of the punishment process, you are proving that SCOTUS wrong. It IS punishment, and punishment must be fair. It is hard to have a discussion on fairness when there is a lot of misinformation.

    Stats like “only 6% of reported rapes end in conviction” cloud the issue. Most of the studies are trying to compensate for that “unreported number” of alleged rapes, and in doing so, they use criteria that are questionable. The NCVS, for example, includes “attempted” rape in their estimations, which includes “verbal threats.”

    The NCVS understands it has limitations: “The estimates of rape/sexual assault are based on a small number of cases reported to the survey. Therefore, small absolute changes and fluctuations in the rates of victimization can result in large year-to-year percentage change estimates. For 2010, the estimate of rape or sexual assault is based on 57 unweighted cases compared to 36 unweighted cases in 2009.” That is 57 “unreported cases” out of sample size of nearly 71000 people: In 2010, 40974 households and 73283 individuals age 12 and older were interviewed for the NCVS. Each household was interviewed twice during the year. The response rate was 92.3% of households and 87.5% of eligible individuals.” Still, the survey strongly suggests the amount of under-reporting may be over-reported. (2010 NCVS summary).

    Citing a Besserer and Trainor (2000) study, which used “a very broad definition of sexual assault,” including all unwanted forms of sexual touching and threats, and possibly “behaviors not conforming to the popular image of a sexual offense,” Hanson and Harris point out 59% of the respondents of this study stated the reason for not reporting was they felt the “incident was not important enough” to report. “Consequently, readers may wonder what counts as a sexual assault.” (Harris & Hanson 2004, p. 1-2)

    The victim industry suffers from confirmation bias. They draw conclusions as hypotheses and design studies to come up with the necessary numbers, and rely on anecdotes and emotional impact stories as shields from criticism. The result is a system where we justify perpetual punishment by creating perpetual victims. Two wrongs do NOT make a right.

  5. I gotta say I disagree with that. High false accuser rate and high rate of victims who don’t report are not mutually exclusive. I don’t know the truth about the former right now, but believe the latter. I know lots of rape victims don’t wish to report, and don’t think anyone would compell them to go to court if they don’t want to. But I would not want the state to have the power to force the media to not disclose any names (or jail regular people for revealing names). It should be free about these things. I don’t want the accused to stay anonymous either – it can be dangerous for them. You can disappear into the prison and no one knows where you are. I think justice should happen in plain view, not behind closed doors. I know public opinion can be an enemy, but it can also be your protector. I’m way more scared of the state than social ostracism, and would pick the lesser evil, not just for myself, but society in general. It’s a part of free speech for me.

  6. The statistic is not as shocking as you might be willing to believe.
    It might sound awful, but it takes into account ALL accusations.
    6-8% are PROVEN false. As in, vindictive. The fact those are not prosecuted makes rape conviction harder not easier, imo.
    Protecting false accusers in the name of real victims is one of the most disgusting arguments I’ve ever come across.

    Then the grey area comes.
    Mistaken identity, genuine misunderstanding (a man cant hear “no” if it is never said, and the bullshit of “affirmative consent” doesn’t work in the real world, even if it is a good standard on its face) lack of evidence of a crime (black out drunk, we live in a world where feminists are suggesting that not being able to remember giving consent means no consent was given. Even if the man was also drunk, or had every reason to think he had obtained consent) or even just a poor case (a judge once commented on a case after retiring that he had been crucified in the media for, because he was lenient and wanted to be MORE lenient. The case involved a consensual act where the woman withdrew consent midway through the act. The judge felt it unfair that the man in question should be held accountable for rape, even if he should have stopped, which he obviously should)
    The statistic is misleading because it is used to suggest 90%+ of rapists walk free, which is putting an assumption of guilt on every accusation.
    Everyone with wit in their head should fear such a sentiment.

    Rape is a serious problem.
    Decades of radical feminists muddying the water have made it harder to prosecute, not easier.

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