Sunday, 8 February 2015

Rape Apologists Have NO Place In Positions of Power

I was having a nice Saturday morning, I really was.  The sun was out, I had a new flavour of Pop Tart to try and I'd had that most treasured of things that I miss during the working week - a lie in.

Then I made the mistake of browsing the news on my phone.  And I saw this:

The full link to this article is here.  Massive, massive trigger warning for obvious reasons.

For those of you who can't bring yourselves to read the story in full (and I don't blame you), I'll summarise:  Barrister David Osborne has suggested that where alcohol is involved in a rape case (if a woman says her consent was coerced through the deliberate use of alcohol, for example, or perhaps that she was drunk when she encountered her attacker and doesn't recall giving consent at all), then the men standing accused have a "complete defence" and the case should be dropped.

In a blog odiously titled "SHE WAS GAGGING FOR IT," David Osborne goes on to insist that most men accused of rape are cleared because the jury don't believe a word the victim says and he argues against the idea that our first and foremost reaction to a rape allegation should be to believe the victim.  When asked how he would leave women protected by law, in light of his views, Osborne suggests:

"The protection in law that they have got seems to me to be twofold.  Number one, don't go out in the first place,  Or number two, if you do go out, don't get rat-arsed (slang for drunk, for my non UK readers).  If you do go out and get rat-arsed, I'm sorry, you're asking for trouble.  You've seen the news sequences of girls who, regardless of the weather, have their backsides sticking out of their dresses and their tits hanging out of the same dress.  Wandering around the streets, staggering around and then wondering at the end of all that why somebody has, if you like, taken advantage of those circumstances, I don't for the life of me see why the law should be slanted...towards the victim and therefore against the accused.  I don't call them victims.

I've advised my own daughter, although thank God, she doesn't trollop around the streets half naked and under the influence...I've said you've got to bear in mind that walking the streets, provocatively dressed, can, in some circumstances, be an invitation to a red-blooded bloke.

I tell you what would drop the rape statistics, would be if girls covered up, dressed appropriately and stopped drinking themselves legless."

Emergency puppy photo, in a bid to bring down my blood pressure before we continue...

Let's make this very clear, shall we?  This man is a BARRISTER.  He practises law in our nation's courts.  And his first view towards a rape case is that if there was alcohol involved, the victim should not be believed.  I firmly believe that there is no place for people like this in positions of power.

There's literally so much wrong with that bloody awful quote of his that I don't know where to start.  Ironically, I'd really like a drink...

Actually, I do know where to start: with the facts.  Alcohol is known to impair decision-making.  It is known to lower inhibitions and make us more likely to do things we later regret.  However, it can also render someone unconscious and therefore unable to consent or fight off an unwanted advance.  It can be used to deliberately coerce or manipulate someone who was previously unwilling. 

In his appalling tirade, David Osborne makes it clear that he believes that women who "cry rape" after having had sex whilst drunk actually did consent to the sex, but then regretted it later.  It's at this point that anyone with an ounce of common sense and a lack of hatred for women (don't even try to argue that Osborne is anything but a misogynist) can untangle his nasty little knotted argument.

And we can even do it with a simple picture.

Let's think about how many rape cases go unreported every year, by victims who are aware of how difficult it is to secure a conviction.  They know that in rape cases - almost certainly more so than in any other kind of criminal case - there is a strong chance that they won't be believed.  And why?  Because of men like David Osborne.  Men in positions of power, who suggest that things such as the victim's clothing, their choice of path home and the amount they had to drink somehow takes away from their status as the wronged person.  They must have asked for it.  They must, to quote Osborne, have been "gagging for it."  The thought of reliving their ordeal, only to be accused of leading the rapist on, or of putting themselves at risk purely by having the audacity to go out in a dress and enjoy a few drinks, leaves many rape victims unwilling to go to the police.

Now let's think about how many false accusations of rape are made every year.  In 2013, the Crown Prosecution Service released their findings, having looked into prosecutions for rape and domestic abuse over the period of January 2011 - May 2012.  They compared this with the number of prosecutions for false allegations of rape.  In the entire test period, whilst 5,651 people were prosecuted for rape, only 35 were prosecuted for making false rape allegations.  According to the research, a "significant number" of these false allegations were made by children, young people, or those with mental health problems.  In other words, very vulnerable members of society.  Kier Starmer QC, Director of Public Prosecutions, confirmed at the time: "From the cases we have analysed, the indication is that it is...extremely rare that a suspect deliberately makes a false accusation of rape or domestic violence purely out of malice."  He went on to make the vital distinction that: "The mere fact that in some cases someone did not pursue a complaint, or retracted it, is not of itself evidence that it was false."

Credit to Rape Crisis Scotland.

It really shouldn't be hard to imagine why false rape allegations are nowhere near as common as some people believe them to be.  It's not as simple as just telling a lie, after all.  It's a lie you have to consistently tell to several police officers and specially trained Sexual Offences Liaison Officers.  It's a lie that will only get as far as a court room if those police officers believe that there is enough evidence and it's in the public interest to pursue a prosecution.  If they do take it to court, it's a lie you might well have to tell in front of a judge, a jury and the person you're falsely accusing (unless you give evidence by video screen).  It's a lie you'll have to consistently keep up, whilst having your character questioned by the accused's defence team.  It's a lie you'll have to stick to, whilst being subjected to an attack on what you were wearing, whether you'd had anything to drink and how loose your morals are perceived to be.  It's a lie you'll have to tell over and over, knowing full well that far too many people are judging you rather than the accused.  How many women does David Osborne believe would truly want to put themselves through all of that, simply because they regret a drunken "quickie?"  As the above research concludes, the number is incredibly small.

And so we move from the facts on false allegations, to the facts on the law.  A law which David Osborne insists he'd like to see amended...

By law, sex without consent is rape.  Consent gained through coercion via manipulation or alcohol is rape.  Sex with a person who is unable to give full consent, due to the effects of alcohol or drugs is rape.  

David Osborne seems convinced that in every rape case where there is alcohol involved, the woman has, at some point, fully consented for sexual activity to take place and simply changed her mind afterwards.  But as we have seen above, false allegations of rape are rare (current statistics for the UK range from 3-8% of rape allegations turning out to be false).  If we are in a position wherein a man - with all of the privileges that alone bestows him, without even taking into account his white skin and upper middle class ranking - can stand as a practitioner of the law and announce that rape victims who'd been drinking at the time of their attack should not be believed, then we are in a sad state of affairs indeed.

A sad state of affairs which only gets sadder when we read the "advice" David Osborne gives women in order to prevent rape.  The same tired, lazy, set of arguments we've heard time and time again, which places full responsibility for preventing rape on the shoulders of women and which suggests that poor "red-blooded blokes" just can't help themselves.  I find this grossly offensive as a woman, but I'd find it equally despicable were I a man being told that my natural instinct is to rape.

  • Don't get drunk, girls.  If you get drunk, you'll do something you might regret.
  • Don't wear a revealing outfit.  If you do, men won't be able to help themselves.
  • Travel in groups.  That way potential rapists might be put off and will look for someone on her own, instead.
Not a single one of these arguments puts even the slightest bit of blame on the person who actually commits the crime.  The responsibility is heaped onto the shoulders of the raped, rather than the rapist.  Not only is this attitude misogynistic and reeks of rape apology, but it's ignoring the very fact that a huge number of women are raped by men they know (around 90%, according to Rape Crisis), with the attacks taking place in their own homes, workplaces or other settings in which they previously felt safe.  Rape does NOT only occur on nights out.  It does NOT only happen to young, provocatively dressed women.  Rape, as David Osborne should really know, given he works in the legal profession, is NOT an act of sex, it is an act of violence/control.

It also intrigues me as to what excuses David Osborne would make in order to place blame on a male victim of rape.  Whilst the vast majority of rape victims are women, men and boys can be and unfortunately are raped and it's no less devastating for them when it happens.  So, Mr Osborne, how about them?  Were they drunk and therefore "gagging for it?"  Perhaps they were wearing a tight-fitted t-shirt, or snug jeans that left little to the imagination?  Because if women are to blame for their own sexual assaults, then surely by extension, so are men? Or is rape apology something you reserve exclusively for us ladies...?

David Osborne, in his vile blog, talks about ways we could reduce rape statistics in this country.  The answer is simple: 

 Teach rapists not to rape.

That - and that alone - is how we'll reduce statistics on rape.  We need to educate society that no means no.  That a person incapacitated through drink cannot give free, clear consent.  And that victims of rape are not responsible for what was done to them, regardless of what they were wearing, or whether they were drinking.  That rape victims should never be judged or shamed.

Rape is the shameful act.  And rape apology is shameful, too.

Rape Crisis: England & Wales Freephone: 08088 02 99 99 (operational 12-2:30pm and 7-9:30pm daily)
Rape Crisis Scotland Freephone: 08088 01 03 02 (line operational 6pm-midnight daily)


  1. We should get a petition going to get that man out of law practice. There is no way he should ever handle any cases like this.

  2. Agreed. His views are just so dangerous and they do nothing but contribute towards the rape-culture we already live in.

  3. Agreed. His views are just so dangerous and they do nothing but contribute towards the rape-culture we already live in.

  4. I think the solution should be to castrate all the rapists and anyone who blames the victim

  5. Thank you for this. The way people's minds seem to work right now scares me. I have a little daughter and I shudder to think what she is going to grow up in the middle of. I have been working since she was born to make sure she knows how strong she is, how brave she is, that she can speak out and be heard. But I worry because of everyone else. No one wants to hear.
    And btw, just as a quick confirmation of your statement about rape not having anything to do with a victim's clothing choices: I was nearly gang-raped in broad daylight on the side of a road. I escaped by running fairly deep into the woods, hoping I could lose them in all of the trees and vines. Later I found out that it was probably the "Danger: Unexploded Mines" sign that kept them from following me very far. Another time, I was stalked for weeks by a guy who I ended up turning in. In both cases, I was wearing a long skirt and a shirt with sleeves that buttoned up and covered everything up. I was wearing flat shoes. (lol I tend to wear that sort of thing a lot). I could have gone in and taught Sunday school and no one would have thought anything was wrong with my clothing. I was blessed in that nobody ever managed to get ahold of me. But I may not always be so blessed, and many are not. It makes my blood boil to hear people say it was their fault for wearing a bathing suit (on the beach, like everyone else there) or that they must have been dressed provocatively. It just doesn't work that way.

  6. That's such an awful thing to have happened to you, I'm so sorry!

    And it absolutely proves the point - nobody is ever responsible for a rape besides the rapist(s).

  7. i went out once, with two of my most trusted married-guy friends...i drank a lot, needless to say i was completly out of it (lying on the floor, laughing, not even able to move) I was able to let go and drink because as i said, i trusted them! one of them tried to have sex with me. saying "it's okay come on lets do it, she's out of it, let's have fun" to the other guy. lucky for me, the other guy, who is as of today my best best friend, defended me. I don't really know and i don't want to know what would have happened if he wasn't there to stop do something to me! and just for information, i was not wearing slutty clothes!
    anyway, i was lucky but so many girls out there are not, it makes me angry and sad at the same time!
    what is worse is that when i talk about it to people, you know what i get for answers?? "your fault, you'd have asked for it" or "don't get drunk with guys, are u stupid or what??"
    it just makes me want to cry to hear so much shit!
    needless to say i'm so disgusted i can't even drink a drop since then!!
    so yeah...just wanted to share! seeing this article made me remember all this crap!
    those people should be, at some point in their life, living in the shoes of someone being abused/raped. i wonder what they would say then....
    thank you for your blog, btw! flying through it, it's very interesting!

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