WOMEN AGAINST RAPE, other victims’ organisations, doctors, solicitors and barristers* write to the Attorney General to demand the protection of women who report rape and the prosecution of the Daily Mail for breaching their anonymity
The public everywhere are horrified at the shocking murders of five young women in Ipswich, and are demanding that women´s safety is prioritised. Yet women who report rape have been under unprecedented attack from the legal establishment, some have even been imprisoned and our protective legal right to anonymity has been breached by the Daily Mail, which has so far gone unpunished.
WAR and over 50 victims´ organisations, doctors, solicitors, barristers and other concerned individuals have written to the Attorney General to demand that nothing be put in the way of women who have been raped or sexually assaulted reporting their attacker so he can be stopped before he goes on to rape again, or even as in Soham and maybe in Ipswich, to murder.
The open letter to Lord Goldsmith demands that:
· The Daily Mail be prosecuted for breaching the anonymity of a woman at the centre of a high-profile “wrongful conviction” for sexual assault.
· Lord Campbell-Savours, who used his parliamentary privilege to announce her name, be reprimanded.
· The growing practice of prosecuting women reporting sexual assaults be ended.
They are requesting that the Attorney General meet a delegation of rape survivors early in the New Year.
For decades increasing numbers of women have fought for the law to protect rape survivors, including from media exposure and sensationalised, pornographic reporting of sexual violence. The outing of Ms A by the Mail is an attempt to change the law on anonymity by breaking it, and create a climate in which women who report rape are increasingly discredited and can even be prosecuted and imprisoned.
There is no evidence that false allegations are widespread. But there is massive evidence that most reported sex attacks are unproven because of sexism in the criminal justice system – from negligent investigations to incompetent and uncommitted prosecutions to hostile judges.
· Over 240 women are murdered a year – four to five women each week – half by partners or ex-partners. Many of these men have a record of violence for which they have not been prosecuted. Many of these murders are unsolved.
· The national conviction rate for reported rape is 5.3% and falling.
· The conviction rate for reported rape in Suffolk is 1.6% – the second lowest in the country. We have been given many reports of violent attacks against women in Ipswich in recent months which were not dealt with.
· Violent men know who they can attack with impunity. They take advantage of those of us who have been made vulnerable when we are less likely to be believed: because we have a relationship with them, or because our social status is lower than theirs – sex workers, women with a history of mental health problems, who are too drunk to object, under the age of consent, are Black or immigrant.
· The discrimination that survivors face in the investigation and prosecution of sexual violence is widely documented including in Home Office research.
This witch-hunt of those who report rape has implications for all rape survivors and all women; the threat of being criminalised and exposed is already putting women off from reporting violence.
The same alarming trend can be seen among the prosecuting authorities: two 18-year-olds were recently imprisoned – a deeply retrograde move. Other women, when they report rape, are being threatened with prosecution for “wasting police time” or “perverting the course of justice” unless they withdraw their allegations. The mother of a 13-year-old girl who had reported being raped at school has been barred from employment as a social worker after police dropped the case. One woman was arrested – in a dawn raid – by the police after she had reported a sexual assault.
Several are in touch with WAR, and want to put their experiences directly to the Attorney General.
In response to the shocking murders of five sex workers in Ipswich, women are asking why, whatever our profession or behaviour, any of us remain so unprotected from violent men. While prostitute women are not safe, no woman is safe.
Serial killers usually have a history of escalating violence which has never been treated seriously. The lives of the victims of Peter Sutcliffe, Anthony Hardy, Ian Huntley and others could have been saved if previous attacks, including against wives and girlfriends, had been prosecuted.
We are available for comment on 020 7482 2496