Sometimes, it's just a cigar

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A life ruined v A fate worse than death

Since the verdict in the Micheal Le Vell trial everyone it seems has become mind reading experts, knowing what the jury, the accused, the girl and anyone associated with the case is thinking. Ally Fogg covers the fact only those in the court room know what happened in the court room.really well here even if I disagree with his conclusions.

Both sides, the he is a rapist and she is a liar are on the verge of hysteria as they throw accusations across the internet, and the basis of their beliefs seems to be that rape or rape accusations are so different from any other experiences that we need special rules to deal with them.

I have been raped, it is one of the many events which has shaped me, made me who I am today. There seems to be a certain section of feminism that believes rape so traumatizes every woman that they can never recover from it. That being raped, is quite literally worse than being murdered. This leads to the belief that the entire court system must be over hauled in order to center it upon those who have been raped.  Each individual experiences, and reacts to rape in their own way, none more correct than another, but the question that never seems to be asked is why is reporting so traumatic?

I believe that it is the stigma that still exists around being a victim of rape. We live in a culture that assumes among other things that if a woman has been drinking; or is out late; or is a sex worker;  that she in some way caused her rape, or that it wasn’t even rape at all. We still cling to the purity myth that women who have been raped have in some way been sullied. This goes back to the crime of rape as being seen as against her male guardians (Father or Husband) instead of against her. Rape was an assault on a woman’s marriage value not her body.

When someone reports an assault or a mugging judgments are not made about their behavior, their moral character, their past history.  When someone reports a rape their entire life is examined to determine whether they are a “good” victim. This outrage wont be changed by making the courts agree with the outdated idea that a woman can be “ruined” via rape though. The stigma may in fact be reinforced as the state determines that rape is so traumatizing that anyone who copes may be called into doubt. It is already the case that some women doubt whether they were raped because their life has not been destroyed.

The odd thing is that the MRAs who are crying that Le Vells life has been ruined actually seem to agree with those who see rape as the worst thing that can happen to any women ever. I honestly heard someone on the radio this evening saying being accused of rape was worse than being accused of murder, and so defendants should have anonymity. These are two sides of the same coin, even if they seem so far apart, rape as some alien act that exists outside society and understanding.

This attitude allows the rape apologists to decide they can have never raped anyone, that sex with someone drunk, or asleep, or who they are married too, or who carries on dating them afterwards isn’t really rape. After all rape is something so terrible even to be accused of it ruins a mans life forever, rape is something other men do.

The current legal system isn’t perfect, far from it, however the calls from both sides for change ignore the real problems. We have a system that is based on harm to the crown, and the state seeking redress. We have a system that determines punishment in terms of harm done to the state, whatever lip service we pay via victim impact statements.  Calls for piecemeal reform just around rape will not change that, or the stigma, or the low rates of reporting. Giving anonymity to defendants will simply emphasise the idea that accusations are somehow different to someone saying they have been mugged or robbed. It is fuel to the fire of those who claim false rape allegations are rife.

We need reform of our legal system, we need a society that doesn’t shame rape victims, we need many things, what we do not need is people using the acquittal of a man to beat their own political drum. whichever side they are on.

20 comments on “A life ruined v A fate worse than death

  1. hetpat
    September 11, 2013

    Hi Jem

    Ally here. Thanks for the link and kind words.

    This is a really interesting post. I do think there is a familiar is/ought problem here, on both sides.

    I’ll opt out of discussing the issues around the trauma of being raped, which you’ve already done really well, and focus on the trauma of being wrongly accused of rape.

    I also heard (probably the same) guy on the radio tonight saying that being accused of rape is worse than being accused of murder. I agree with him. I think the stigma around sexual crimes is much more severe than the stigma around violent crimes, even the most violent. More significantly, the stigma around sexual crimes is stickier than the stigma around violent crimes – ie much, much harder to shake off. Not so long ago on Twitter I saw someone lambasting Coronation Street for continuing to employ “the convicted rapist Craig Charles.” I had to point out that he had been acquitted, not convicted of the crime, about 20 years ago.

    Now, it is perfectly legitimate to ask whether the stigma around sexual crimes ought to be so much heavier and stickier than other crimes. I’m not sure on that score, to be honest. But it seems to me an inescapable truth that it is.

    It’s kind of a separate if related point, but I think one of the reasons there is a big gulf in understanding and connection between feminists and (mostly) male critics on the issue of false rape allegations is that feminists (and perhaps women more generally) really don’t grasp how utterly terrifying men find the idea of facing a false allegation to be. Feminists typically argue that false allegations are incredibly rare compared to numbers of rapes (certainly true IMO) so why are we even talking about them? For many men, being falsely accused of rape is one of the most horrific things imaginable, and most men live with a degree of fear that it could happen to them one day, whereas we don’t wander around fearing being falsely accused of murder or bank robbery.

    I think that’s another product of the same social and cultural attitude towards rape that you describe above as an “alien act.” The other side of the same coin, perhaps.

    • jemima2013
      September 11, 2013

      In some ways I shall also sidestep the fear of being accused, since it is s fear I do not share, but I think it is an area I would love to read either you or Carter ( or better yet both!) write on.

      Your final paragraph though really struck a chord, although I am not sure exactly if my thoughts are formed…but tend towards the idea there is confusion about informed consent, combined with perhaps a fear of things men have done that lead them to have to insist rape is something they could never do, and all accusations would be false…perhaps men do not live in fear of being accused of robbery because they know exactly what robbery is, a comparison might be the state of mind of those who live under repressive regimes, who because they cannot predict the secret policemans knock live in perpetual fear of it.

  2. hetpat
    September 11, 2013

    Some weird formatting going on there! Apols ;-)

  3. Jennie Kermode
    September 11, 2013

    It seems to me that it is in the interests of people who are falsely accused of rape to make sure people who are raped can reliably access justice, because that is the only way other people will ever be confident of their innocence if they are acquitted. Further, it is in the interests of people who are raped that those accused be treated as innocent until proven guilty (notwithstanding necessary safety precautions applied by the legal system in some cases) and not faced with lynch mobs, so that there is altogether less damaging sensationalism around rape reporting. We are all best served by supporting the rule of law and the civilised values that adhere to it in other contexts.

    • jemima2013
      September 11, 2013

      Thank you for your comment…

      I agree, the problems with the legal system exist, but the current frenzy of retying publicly someone who has been acquitted, and calling for the girl to be charged with perjury both show how hateful the lynch mob can be when they gather

  4. hetpat
    September 11, 2013

    Jennie – Yes, I agree with that so, so much. Pretty much the root of my position on this stuff.

  5. Mary Margaret
    September 11, 2013

    I disagree that being accused of rape is considered worse than murder. I was drug raped violently, brutally and repeatedly by a man I thought I was dating. It is my strongly held belief that his brother, boss and friend know the man he is and only his bro made any real attempt to warn me, though actually didn’t.

    I am an educated professional and havebeen devasted about our corrosive society which happily turns a blind eye to his actions and permits his lifestyle choice

    • jemima2013
      September 11, 2013

      so sorry that happened to you and that society doesn’t seem to want to hear the stories of victims

  6. Ani J. Sharmin
    September 11, 2013

    I agree with you that a big part of the problem is the stigma about being a rape victim. I’ve never understood why people are more concerned about false accusations of rape and sexual harassment vs. false accusations of anything else. I like your comment about there being confusion about informed consent. Most people probably can’t imagine a time when they would, say, steal from someone with consent vs. steal from someone without consent. But with sex, there are times when it’s with consent and times when it’s not.

    It really bothers me, though, that this confusion about consent is blamed on the victim, who’s accused of wanting it and then changing their mind. Or, a situation is interpreted as not really being rape due to sympathy for the perpetrator or details about the victim. If the person who raped someone doesn’t know about informed consent, that’s not a reason to turn it around, and blame the victim, but I see that happening too often.

    There are people who’ve actually been convicted of rape with lots of evidence who still receive sympathy. I think the way people treat someone who’s been accused of rape or sexual assault varies, based on a lot of things (how famous they are, the beliefs of their family members and friends, beliefs in the community they live in, whether they come from a minority group, etc.)

    • jemima2013
      September 12, 2013

      Thank you for your comment and I agree totally. Whilst Ally is no doubt right that for some men being accused of rape would be devastating you only need to look the support Ched Evans has as a convicted rapist to see that for many the word of the victim does not matter

      • hetpat
        September 12, 2013

        I don’t think it’s an all-or-nothing effect though. Yes, those who are acquitted of sexual offences, and indeed those who are convicted of sexual offences, will often continue to receive the support and love of (at least some of) their family and friends, which is natural, and if they’re a famous footballer or pop star or suchlike they will continue to receive the devotion of their fans, and I agree that in cases like Ched Evans, where the system has declared them guilty beyond all reasonable doubt, that is horrible and disturbing to see,

        But all of that can happen while – simultaneously – many, many other people are judging them, abusing them, discriminating against them etc etc etc. If that is happening to someone who has indeed committed rape or similar and got away with it, then I couldn’t care less, they deserve everything they get.

        However if it is happening to someone who genuinely has been wrongly accused, then it is a terrible thing to have to carry through life. And it is very well documented that for some it leads to severe emotional and mental health problems, addiction, self-harm, even suicide.

        The problem is that in most cases, most of us have absolutely no way of knowing whether someone who has been cleared of the charges (at whatever stage) has been rightly or wrongly cleared. So it then becomes a moral question of whether we wish to participate in the stigmatisation and persecution of someone that the judicial system has declared to be innocent.

        Yes, the statistics would suggest that most people who have been accused but not convicted of rape are probably guilty, but I’m really not comfortable with judging people on statistical probabilities, because that inevitably involves punishing the innocent minority along with the guilty majority. That’s something I’m deeply uncomfortable with.

        • jemima2013
          September 12, 2013

          I can see what you are saying, but is that any different from anyone wrongly accused? I am thinking of the English teacher who was destroyed by the press for the murder of a Joanna Woods (apologies if that is the wrong name)

  7. hetpat
    September 13, 2013

    Joanna Yates, iirc, and the teacher was Christopher Jeffries.

    I think there are a few issues there – first is he was never charged, far less prosecuted, and the problem was with the press leaping on him without any evidence that he’d actually done it, so the situation was a bit different. It was more about him being libelled by papers than wrongly accused in the judicial system.

    What happened to him was disgusting and unforgivable and must have been absolutely horrific for him at the time, but the stigma or notoriety he carries is “that guy the press called a weirdo and wrongly accused of murder.” I doubt any or many people are wandering around the village he lives whispering that he’s probably a murderer who got away with it. Not least because they did actually catch and convict the man who really did it.

    The other thing is that the murder of Joanna Yates was a sadistic sex crime, so in this sense has much more in common with notorious rape cases than with most other murders.

    • cartertheblogger
      April 16, 2014

      I think I’d add one word of caution about the Chris Jeffries case. Yes he was libelled, but the press knew where to look because they were briefed by police officers. People know this, and will subscribe to the ‘no smoke without fire’ thesis – the argument that there must be something weird about the bloke because the police investigated him. So, actually, there is still a stigma attached.

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  11. J C
    April 14, 2014

    Rape is a horrible thing BUT as being someone who was convicted of a rape I didn’t do I have to say being falsely convicted is worse. I also do not trust people and not a day goes by that it doesn’t keep me up nights.My life is ruined,I am on a sex offenders registry that is easily seen by anyone,I have had to move from many places because of it,Death threats are not uncommon. I cannot live close to a school or any place a child resides or hangs out,I can’t date anyone with a child.Try telling someone that you were falsely convicted and you are called a Liar most of the time. I spent 10 years in Prison,I was raped there many times,I was beaten many times. How do you get counseled for this? You can’t because your life will never change no matter how much counseling you receive.I could go on and on,yes Rape is a horrible thing and while it is bad being falsely convicted is much worse.

    • jemima2013
      April 14, 2014

      Firstly thank you for your comment, i have thought about what to say in reply. My code is that we should believe what others tell us about their experiences, and your treatment in prison sounds awful and very wrong.
      There is though a difference between you and the people mentioned, they were not found guilty. I am not saying the justice system cannot be wrong, or that innocent people are not found guilty, but it is currently all we have. I dont see how giving anonymity to those accused or convicted of rape would help with people wrongly convicted.

      Again thank you for your comment it must have taken a lot of courage.

    • cartertheblogger
      April 16, 2014

      As Jem has said, thank you for commenting. As someone who has campaigned on a large number of miscarriage of justice cases, I recognise your feelings of anger and pain, and your experiences of being unjustly brutalized by other prisoners. However, I will also say this. Pain is not something that lends itself to quantitative comparisons – one pain is not objectively or measurably worse than another. We may say it in everyday life, that toothache is worse than a splinter in the finger, but as soon as you have that debate, someone will disagree.
      So it is with emotional pain. Your pain is the worst thing that could have happened to you – the pain of being falsely convicted is worse than the pain of being beaten or raped, but other’s experiences will be different.

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