This is the joint website of  Women Against Rape and Black Women's Rape Action Project. Both organisations are based on self-help and provide support, legal information and advocacy. We campaign for justice and protection for all women and girls, including asylum seekers, who have suffered sexual, domestic and/or racist violence.

WAR was founded in 1976. It has won changes in the law, such as making rape in marriage a crime, set legal precedents and achieved compensation for many women. BWRAP was founded in 1991. It focuses on getting justice for women of colour, bringing out the particular discrimination they face. It has prevented the deportation of many rape survivors. Both organisations are multiracial.

 

 

 

End the use of women’s sexual history in court and ‘belief in consent’

In rape trials, victims of rape have traditionally been questioned about their sexual history. Defence barristers imply that if you have slept with several men, or if you have a “reputation” or, for instance, if you are a young single woman who has a child, then you are more likely to have consented to sex with the accused. The Youth Justice & Criminal Evidence Act 1999 introduced some restrictions on such questioning, which trashes the rape survivor’s character in front of the jury. The Act could have protected the right to a fair trial of both the victim and the defendant. But the government, ignoring the protests and lobbying of our grassroots women’s campaign, instead brought in a complicated law, which is often manipulated or simply ignored, without the judge or prosecution even protesting.

Our Sexual History Campaign has consistently demanded that a principled distinction be made so that questioning about the woman’s relationship with the accused could be allowed, with some protections, but not her sexual history with any other man. Instead, under the law, the man can say he knew your history and he “believed” you were consenting to what he did. His lawyer can claim that your sexual history is relevant to his “belief” – and the jury should be told about it. From the beginning WAR has said this law is outrageous. No man has a right to jump to conclusions about what you want to do with him, on the basis of what you might have done with somebody different! And your intimate private life should be completely irrelevant in court.

Vera Baird, Solicitor General, has admitted in Parliament that this “belief in consent” excuse that is written into the law is an open door for rapists’ lawyers to bring women’s sexual history into the courtroom. How many more women will be humiliated and discredited before the authorities bow to women’s pressure and do something about it?

Tags: