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Rape: Myths & Realities Sandy Brindley Rape Crisis Scotland 0141 331 4182 www.rapecrisisscotland.org.uk.

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Presentation on theme: "Rape: Myths & Realities Sandy Brindley Rape Crisis Scotland 0141 331 4182 www.rapecrisisscotland.org.uk."— Presentation transcript:

1 Rape: Myths & Realities Sandy Brindley Rape Crisis Scotland

2 Prevalence of rape & sexual assault Police statistics rapes & attempted rapes British Crime Survey 2000 estimated between 1 in 5 and 1 in 8 women report to the police NSPCC survey, in 3 girls in a relationship have experienced unwanted sexual accts

3 Myths & misconceptions about sexual violence Myth: Rape generally is carried out by a stranger, with significant additional violence involved Fact:Most rapes are carried out by men known to the woman. Around 54% of rapes are carried out by partners/former partners. Only 17% were by strangers (British Crime Survey 2004) Myth:Women will be hysterical immediately after an attack Fact:Some women are. However, for other women their reactions can be counter-intuitive in that they may appear very calm (controlled reaction to shock) Myth: Women frequently make malicious allegations of rape Fact:There is no evidence that false reports of rape are any higher than for any other crime

4 Reactions to rape & sexual assault Shock Feelings of powerlessness, feeling out of control Fear, nightmares and sleeplessness Feelings of shame and guilt A need to carry on as if nothing has happened Anger Depression Panic attacks Flashbacks Eating problems Self-injury Abuse of drugs, alcohol etc Changes in relationships

5 Myths & misconceptions Myth:If women don’t struggle during a rape, they can’t really mind what is happening Fact:While some women do employ verbal (shouting/screaming) or physical (fighting/kicking) strategies during an attack, many women talk about freezing and being unable to move or scream. This is a natural reaction to a traumatic event. Myth:Some women lead men on by dressing or behaving provocatively and have only themselves to blame if things go further than they wanted Fact:This is based on the notion that men have uncontrollable sexual urges, which are provoked by women’s behaviour. Men can and do control their sexual behaviour, as women do.

6 Societal Attitudes to Rape & Sexual Assault Scottish Executive research (2008) 24% of people think a woman can be at least partly responsible if she is drunk at the time of the attack 27% thought a woman bore some responsibility if she wore revealing clothing 29% say there should be some burden of responsibility if a woman is flirting 15% think rape can be a woman’s fault if she is known to have had many sexual partners Amnesty research (2005): over a third of people believe a woman is totally or partially responsible for being raped if she has behaved in a ‘flirtatious’ manner 28% believe she is totally or partially responsible if she is drunk 27% believe she is totally or partially responsible if she is wearing ‘sexy or revealing’ clothing 25% believe she is totally or partially responsible if she has had many sexual partners Zero Tolerance research (1998) 1 in 2 boys and 1 in 3 girls thought it was acceptable for a man to hit a woman or force her to have sex in certain circumstances

7 Criminal Justice Responses to Sexual Offences Significant under-reporting of rape -estimated between 1 in 5 and 1 in 8 women report to the police (British Crime Survey, 2000) Reasons women give rape crisis centres for not reporting include: -fear that she won’t be believed or will be blamed for what happened -she doesn’t feel strong enough to go through police and legal procedures -she is scared about what would happen in court, particularly during cross-examination by the defence 2008/2009 statistics, Scottish Executive 821 reported rapes, 83 prosecutions, 25 convictions 10.1% of reported rapes lead to a prosecution 3% of reported rapes lead to a conviction 30% of rapes which are prosecuted lead to a conviction

8 Barriers faced by survivors during legal process (1) Feeling disbelieved / blamed / not being taken seriously Fear and distress at prospect of giving evidence in court Lack of information and control over role on legal proceedings- can reinforce disempowerment experienced by survivors; survivors report feeling subject to a process they do not feel a part of Length of time between reporting to police, precognition and case coming to court- very distressing for survivor, particularly if accused out on bail Memory gaps, due to delay in case coming to court, blocking or repression as coping mechanisms- makes it difficult to recall details of attack as specified in statement

9 Barriers faced by survivors during legal process (2) Lack of recognition or understanding of survival or coping mechanisms that may present as counter-intuitive to those not experienced in impact of rape/ trauma eg woman returning to work straight after incident ‘Retraumatisation- feeling raped/ violated again Embarrassment; finding it difficult to find language to describe what happened; feelings of shame, feeling ‘dirty’ or ‘stupid’; feelings of self-blame and self-doubt Impact of societal attitudes- reinforcing survivor’s own negative feelings towards herself Fear of being ‘ripped to shreds’ during cross-examination Use of sexual history and character evidence

10 What might help improve complainers’ experience of the justice system? Improved perception of police attitudes Explanations as to why certain questions are being asked and/or why she is being asked to repeat aspects of her story Feeling that all possible avenues of evidence are being explored (forensic, other witnesses, CCTV etc) Use of preliminary statements (ie giving initial police statement but delaying full statement until following day after complainer has had a chance to go home / bath / get some sleep) More information Guaranteed access to female medical examiner Statement taking outwith police stations (e.g. in rape crisis centre)

11 What might help improve complainers’ experience of the justice system? Vigorous implementation of legal provisions restricting the use of sexual history and character evidence in sexual offence trials More information & more control over proceedings Use of special measures (esp. having supporter present) Meeting prosecutor before trial More interventionalist culture within courtroom


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