Below is a letter I’ve sent to Lynne Featherstone, challenging the Government’s extension of anonymity to alleged rapists. Ms. Featherstone is a Lib Dem junior minister in the Home Office with a portfolio to tackle inequality. I thought I’d post the letter rather than write the same points out in article form, and was wondering what other people thought about the policy.
Dear Ms. Featherstone,
I am writing to you in your capacity as a minister responsible for equality, with regard to proposed legislation to extend anonymity to alleged rapists.
You know as well as I that the rape conviction rate is low: that most raped women do not receive justice. I have read your comments in the press noting how few reported rapes end in conviction and trust that you know how very few rapes are reported in the first place. At best estimate 6.5% of total rapes end in conviction.
Surely the Government’s policy, if enacted, will do nothing other than exacerbate this unacceptable state of affairs.
Last year The Daily Mail (among others) ran numerous headlines emphasising women’s supposedly uncontrollable urge to lie about rape. This both reflects and perpetuates the widespread myth that rape victims are liars. The Government’s anonymity policy aligns it with this misogyny: suggesting that so many women fabricate rape accusations that legislation is required to protect men from the onslaught. There is no evidence that there are more false accusations of rape than of any other crime.
I do not claim that the Government’s actions are motivated by misogyny. But they will create a system in which every rape victim will be powerfully aware that her attacker is being ‘taken care of’ by the system. They will reinforce in her the sense that everyone, in court and out, assumes she’s a liar. Under these circumstances how much less likely is she to report the crime? How much more painful is the process of any trial likely to be? Are jurors not going to see alleged rapists as a special category of alleged criminal: more likely to be sinned against than sinning? The last thing women in this country need is further obstacles to justice for those of them who are raped.
All of these factors far outweigh the only plausible benefit of the policy; that women may be able to report rape without fear of recrimination from men who see their honour/pride as damaged by the subsequent charges against them. This is unlikely to even translate into a real benefit: a woman won’t expect an angry rapist to act rationally and refrain from retribution because his name was not made public at trial.
You are one of the few M.Ps to have publicly spoken out against institutions of sexual objectification like Page 3. My local M.P., David Heath, has assured me of your dedication to working against the objectification of women and ‘pornification’ of their lives in a recent correspondence. I sincerely hope that you will fight the corner of raped women on this issue, using your position in government to promote their needs and rights over those of rapists. It is rapists, as well as those genuinely innocent, who will benefit from this policy.