Friday, 18 January 2013

Rape: A Crime of Injustice

Last week we were confronted with the stats on the worryingly low rape convictions in the UK. It is believed that there are up to 95,000 rape victims each year, 15,000 were recorded by the police, just 2910 go to court and only 1070 are convicted*.

The Savile report told of more abuse whereby the wrong person was given too much power, too much trust, over the course of decades and he took advantage of his position,  sexually abusing boys, girls and vulnerable people.

We then read of atrocities in India where a young woman cannot ride a bus home, accompanied by a male friend, without fear of brutal rape and murder. We've read how in the weeks following this particular attack, more copycat attacks have taken place. It would be naive to believe that this treatment of women in India is a new phenomenon,  but this particular incident has captured the attention of a nation and the rest of the world.

Let's be clear, this isn't about feminism. This isn't about women's rights or women's issues. This is a human issue. What kind of a world do we live in where one human can treat another in such a way that reduces them to a mere commodity, a play thing or something that is simply there to satisfy another's desires.

Every human being has a right to feel safe, has the right to say no. You don't give up that right by wearing a short skirt or drinking too much, by being out after dark or making the mistake of following a charming man to a private room. You don't give up that right by being mentally vulnerable or physically unable to run - if anything you deserve more protection!

Yes, legislation needs to change. Legislation needs to dictate that the victim has more rights than the perpetrator. If convicted, prison sentences need to reflect the severity of the crime, early release should not be an option. Parole should not be an option.

Victim support needs to be improved so that victims feel like they will be believed, that they will not be confronted with a jumped-up defence lawyer implying that in some way she asked for it. They need to at least feel that the drawn out, humiliating process of a court case is likely to end in a conviction.

But if we're really to make a difference, then this crime against humanity needs to be prevented. And to prevent it we should be going back to basics. Back to grass roots education.

Sex education in the UK should not be all about free condoms and the morning after pill. We should be teaching our kids that no means no. 'I'm not sure' does not equal consent if you spend a bit of time persuading her a bit more.

If she's too intoxicated to walk in a straight line, she's too intoxicated to consent to sex without regretting it the morning after. They should be taught how to stay safe, how to avoid potentially dangerous situations and who they can tell if something does happen.

They should be taught that just because he's your boyfriend, or even husband, it doesn't make your no any less of a no.

Bottom line, all our kids, both boys and girls, should be taught respect. And if they're taught respect for themselves,  for each other, for society, for human-kind, then maybe they'll grow into young adults who want to make a difference in the world, who want to be successful. Not adults who think they can abuse others just to satisfy their own desires. Maybe.

*Stats gathered by the Ministry of Justice,  the Home Office and the Office for National Statistics

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