Friday, June 18, 2010

Should rape defendants be granted anonymity until conviction? Ask rape victim Jacqui Gasson

In the current debate over anonymity for presumptively innocent men accused of rape, who can we trust to provide an unbiased take on the issue?

We can't trust the persons leading the opposition. They are largely the same persons who have engaged in dishonest tactics to make it appear that rape is rampant and tolerated in the UK.  They are advocates with an agenda to jack up rape convictions, not objective policymakers.  It is well to note that their dishonesty may actually have hurt rape victims. How have they been dishonest?  The Home Office, and politicians seeking to jack up rape convictions, have long cited the attrition rate for rape, which is the number of convictions as a percentage of number of reported crimes. That rate is 6%.  But, the Home Office, and everyone, uses the conviction rate (the number of convictions secured against the number of persons brought to trial for that given offence)  for all other crimes.  The result has been to make it appear that law enforcement is terribly, and uniquely, ineffective when it comes to rape. Please re-read that and make sure you understand it. The UK has insisted that only 6% of "rapists" are convicted, as opposed to the correct figure: 58%.  Stern Review, see page 45.  "Rape is the only crime judged by the attrition rate. All others – murder, assault, robbery, and so on – are assessed by their conviction rates."  See here.  This is dishonesty of Biblical proportions. The Stern Review noted that use of the attrition rate instead of the conviction rate "may well have discouraged some victims from reporting."  Stern Review, see page 45.

Beyond that, we have debunked every point posited in opposition to anonymity.  Not a single point stands up to the light of day.

So who can we trust to give us an unbiased view?  How about someone who has experienced up close both a rape and a false rape claim?

At a Liberal Democrat conference in Brighton four years ago, anonymity for men accused of rape was debated, and activist Jacqui Gasson, 68, a rape victim whose attacker has never been found, spoke up.

Mrs. Gasson favors anonymity for the presumptively innocent.

The Cardiff activist recounted how she was raped 40 years ago on the steps of her London home. "Despite yelling for help and there being plenty of people on the street above, nobody helped."

The ordeal forced Mrs. Gasson to leave London and caused her to suffer a nervous breakdown.

Nevertheless, Mrs. Gasson spoke out in favor of anonymity for those accused or rape. 

Why is Mrs. Gasson sympathetic to a plight that she, as a woman, would almost certainly never suffer herself?  Because her husband was wrongly accused of an unrelated assault.

Mrs. Gasson has been victimized by rape, and she isn't satisfied enough is being about it. She called for more sexual assault referral centres for rape victims. "You feel dirty, you feel unclean and you need a haven not a police station."

But Mrs. Gasson also has been touched by a false claim in a very personal way.

Mrs. Gasson's position on this issue needs to be listened to.  She demonstrates that rape victims and the victims of false rape claims are not at odds.  Read that last sentence again.  Helping the latter does not hurt the former. Extending a hand to the victims of false rape claims does not suggest that rape victims should be ignored.  We are not playing a zero sum game.  As members of the civilized family of man, we are supposed to try to help all victims, even the ones born with penises. 

These are simple lessons that we've preached here for years, but our message doesn't resonate in the politically charged world of rape advocacy, where it is difficult to tell if the real goal is to help rape victims or to punish an entire gender, including innocent victims of false rape claims, for the sins committed by a tiny percentage of men.

In a nation where the rape debate is marked by gross dishonesty, policymakers would do well to heed the honest voice of Jacqui Gasson, someone who knows what she's talking about, and whose "rape" credentials can scarcely be assailed.