Scorpio Risen

Rape, and why I believe that “Innocent until proven guilty” is a load of bollocks

Posted on: 23 July, 2007

English law states that a person is “innocent until proven guilty.”

 Now, maybe it’s because I can be so incredibly cynical about things, but I just can’t bring myself to agree with that.

But, actually, it has  a lot to do with my feminism.

Given that the national average conviction rate in England and Wales is a paltry 5.3%, that would seem to suggest that – according to English law – there only 1 in 20 men who are reported to be rapists, are guilty of rape.
Personally, I think that’s a load of bollocks; especially when you take into consideration the fact that about 75-95% of rape victims do not report to the police, which therefore means there are a lot more guilty rapists out there.  

I happened to mention the other day that, as far as I – an individual – were concerned, in cases of rape, sexual assault etc, the perpetrator was – in my eyes, at least – guilty until proven innocent (and, even then, I am not convinced by lack of conviction or justice). As I have mentioned, this is largely due to a complete and utter disillusionment and disgust at a system which convicts only 5.3% of alleged rapists. I know I go on about this a lot, but that’s because it is an issue I am hugely concerned about. However, this guy took exception to this, because – and I guess this is, in part, his Christian beliefs coming through – I shouldn’t see people in such a negative light, and that – anyway – some women do not say “no” explicitly enough.

You know, I guess that last part is what is called a “grey area” technically, but when a woman does not say “no” explicitly, it is essentially because – I believe – women are not exactly socialised to be assertive. But this could potentially lead to something else I have been musing about recently – that is, the idea which seems to be commonly held, that sex is inevitable. I will rant on about that in a little while, but I don’t want to digress too much.
However, this view – that some women do not say “no” explicitly enough – is essentially victim-blaming, and it is assuming that the vast majority of cases reported to the police are those of women who didn’t say anything at the time, but then regretted it, and so tell the police it’s rape – I think that’s largely a myth.

The thing is, I believe that an alleged rapist has more of a vested interest to lie than the victim. The thing is, I believe that the judicial system is weighted against rape victims. The thing is, I have to beg the question – how, if I am really, truly to believe that in such cases that someone is “innocent, until proven guilty”, when only 5.3% of reported rapes end in conviction?

It does NOT add up.

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8 Responses to "Rape, and why I believe that “Innocent until proven guilty” is a load of bollocks"

Amy:

You know what is a huge thing for me, even in my expatriate feminist state? Teaching women to be MORE assertive! I really, really think that is so important. Yes, there are tons of scum-bag men out there, the ones who use force and the ones who use pressure and words…and well, I think women being more assertive would curb off some of the pressure and words assholes.

Hi Amy,

You do realise that “innocent until proven guilty” just means you can’t be convicted without a trial right? Imagine the prejudices against men who looked a certain way, came from certain social classes, were black, etc… if they were “guilty until proven innocent”, and the subsequent miscarriages of justice. What’s important is to change the attitude of people within the justice system so women are more easily believed and aren’t treated like Banaz Mahmod recently for instance, and the probable thousands of women in her case right now.

Otherwise, I agree with Ren, men tend to have a sense of entitlement that women don’t, and women should be taught to be more assertive. I always think that’s the point of learning stuff like self-defense, not so men have no responsibility in the matter of whether they attack women, but so women can develop confidence in their ability and their right to defend themselves, and walk around unmolested.

“You do realise that “innocent until proven guilty” just means you can’t be convicted without a trial right?”

Aye, I do.

And, obviously I think it’s wrong that someone should be convicted without a trial.

It’s just, given the national average for conviction rates for rape – it would suggest that about 95% of those reported to be rapists are innocent…
There’s clearly a flaw in the system.
I do not believe that only 5.3% are guilty of rape.

Sorry if I was unclear; I wasn’t at my most awake.

And I agree with you and Ren about teaching women to be more assertive – in all areas of their lives – but I disagree with the assumption mentioned in my post.

Yes – it doesn’t add up. While I agree about teaching women to be more assertive, at the same time I think that if a man makes up his mind that he is going to rape a woman, no amount of assertiveness is going to help – unless it is of a physical kind – self defence, etc. Many men believe that No doesn’t mean No. I believe that men need to be taught from an early age, compulsorily taught, that No really does mean No. That if a woman struggles, she is not “playing”.

And I feel that police really need to take rape allegations seriously, and not believe the man’s word over the woman’s. But this is also difficult when even the men and the women in the police force are affected by culture and the media. I’m not really sure what the answer is.

Hear, hear Liz!

“And I feel that police really need to take rape allegations seriously, and not believe the man’s word over the woman’s.”

That’s kind of along the lines I was thinking – ie, that is assumed, or taken as red, that the man’s word is more credible than the woman’s, but this assumption is completely and utterly not right.

Innocent until proven guilty is one of the more important concepts in our justice system (well, I’m American, but I’m assuming there are similarities). To change it would be a colossal mistake. Presumption of guilt can be used to convict almost anyone as it can be damn near impossible to prove where you where if you were out by yourself or home alone.

That said, there is certainly something extremely wrong with a 5% conviction rate. There is no way 95% of rape cases are cases of women lieing about their attacker, or cases with too little evidence to convict. I realize that we should err on the side of caution if there isn’t enough evidence, but it seems to me that the real issue is getting more women to come forward quickly in rape cases, and that means respecting their claims and treating them honestly and compassionately, not with hostility and accusation. We may also need to look at the ways that the defense typically discredits the victim and decide if these are tactics we should truly allow. Defense of accused rapists shouldn’t be about character assassination of the victim.

Robert – I don’t quite think you got what I meant.
“Presumption of guilt can be used to convict almost anyone as it can be damn near impossible to prove where you where if you were out by yourself or home alone.” …Maybe I’m also not quite understanding you, but if you’re going to use that argument, isn’t it just as possible for someone to argue that a presumption of innocence can be used to acquit almost anyone, when they may really be as guilty as sin?

With Rape Crisis hat on:

re: women being more assertive

1) Kinda says to women “if you’d been ‘more assertive’ you wouldn’t have been raped” = women’s fault.

2) Says the same to the judiciary – “she wasn’t assertive enough on the ‘no to sex’ scale so it’s her own fault.

3) Says the same to the rapists – “she wasn’t assertive enough on the ‘no to rape’ scale so it’s her own fault.

4) Makes women/girls/children somehow “responsible” for not being prearmed against the potentiality of rape/sexual assault/abuse.

5) Women/girls being more assertive in a rape situation actually results in increased and more severe injuries to the victim/survivor.

Men just have to stop doing this. It’s men’s responsibility, not ours.

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