Saturday, February 23, 2013

CBC radio host: Currently, the accused is not anonymous, yet rape is said to be rampant and underreporting the norm -- so naming the accused hasn't solved those problems, has it?

Last week, on CBC radio, Anna Maria Tremonti hosted a balanced discussion about the possibility of  anonymity for the accused. The Web site for the show cites our blog.  You can listen to the discussion from the Web site here. (The following link should take you directly to the audio: http://www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/popupaudio.html?clipIds=2336796064.) 

One of the guests was Sandy Onyalo, the Executive Director of the Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre, who repeated the canard that only two to three percent of sexual assault claims are false. We recently discussed the prevalence of false claims here.

Ms. Onyalo insisted that under the current system, sexual assault is rampant and very rarely reported, and that it rarely leads to convictions. At the 15:08 mark, the show's host Anna Maria Tremonti made one of the most astute comments we've heard on this subject: right now we do name the accused, but you're saying the problem still exists -- so naming the accused hasn't solve the problem, has it?  http://www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/popupaudio.html?clipIds=2336796064

This has been one of the themes of our blog: all manner of reforms and policies have been adopted in the interest of encouraging women to report their rapes and of getting more convictions in rape cases. These reforms and policies often chip away at the rights of the presumptively innocent. We are at a loss to think of one success story, or at least one success story that sexual assault victims' advocates have ever publicly acknowledged. (We are carefully monitoring the "Dear Colleague" letter's effect -- it was supposed to solve the same two problems, but our guess is that in five years, we will continue to hear that the problems remain unchanged or that they are worse than ever.  By that time, we are reasonably certain that a fair number of innocent young men will have been expelled for offenses that never occurred.)

Also on the show, Bruce MacFarlane, a federal prosecutor and a professor of law at the University of Manitoba, feels that anonymity should be granted at the discretion of the court.