miss_s_b: (Default)
miss_s_b ([personal profile] miss_s_b) wrote2011-05-19 10:40 am
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First John Redwood and now Ken Clarke: on the Classification of Rape

Some people will find this entire entry triggery. I apologise for that in advance, but I think what I am putting here needs saying. I've put the worst bits behind a cut.

Sometimes a person fails through lack of empathy; this is not their fault, necessarily, although it can be if they do it wilfully. But mostly, it's just that they haven't really thought about what it would be like to be another person. There has been a lot of vilification of Ken Clarke today for comments he has made about rape, and I find the revulsion that he has triggered in many people entirely understandable. But then, I have been raped. I suspect Ken Clarke hasn't. And I further suspect that most of the people who think the way that he seems to on the matter of rape have not been raped either. It seems to me that most of the people who think that way have only considered the physical ramifications of a rape: if you are forced to have sex against your will by someone you have never met, there is much more likely to be the use of a weapon and much more likely to be serious physical injury, therefore that is worse than so-called "date rape".

This takes no consideration of the psychological effects of rape whatsoever.

I'd like to put forward four scenarios for your consideration, dear reader, and then there will be a poll. I'd like you to answer for yourself in the poll because obviously, none of us can know how another person will react. As always, if you don't have a Dreamwidth account you can log in with openID (any google, blogger, yahoo, myspace, wordpress, flickr, or lots of other accounts can function as an openID) here.

Scenario 1 You are on your third date with someone you have known for a while. At the end of the evening, which has been a pleasant one, you are tired and just want to go home. Your date wants to have sex. Despite your unwillingness, your date presses the matter, and forces you to have sex against your will. You know that nobody will believe that you didn't do this willingly, because your date is seen as a good person by your social group - otherwise you wouldn't be dating them in the first place.

Scenario 2 You are sitting in your living room watching TV. Suddenly, the door flies open, and a masked person with a weapon bursts in. This person threatens you with the weapon and forces you to have sex with them against your will. You have no idea who they are, and they leave immediately afterwards.

Scenario 3 You are walking home from work. You get dragged into a secluded area by someone you have never met before and forced to have sex against your will.

Scenario 4 You are in an abusive relationship. Your spouse regularly forces you to have sex against your will, and today is no different. You have lost count of the number of times your spouse has raped you.
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 26

Which scenario do you think would have the worst PHYSICAL effect on you (tick all that apply)

View Answers

1 (3.8%)

17 (65.4%)

15 (57.7%)

15 (57.7%)

Which scenario do you think would have the worst PSYCHOLOGICAL effect on you (tick all that apply)

View Answers

11 (42.3%)

9 (34.6%)

3 (11.5%)

22 (84.6%)

Which scenario do you think would have the MOST LONG-LASTING effect on you (tick all that apply)

View Answers

5 (19.2%)

5 (19.2%)

1 (3.8%)

25 (96.2%)

Which scenario do you think would have the worst OVERALL effect on you (tick all that apply)

View Answers

2 (7.7%)

3 (11.5%)

2 (7.7%)

26 (100.0%)

For me, scenario 4 is the worst by far. Each individual occurrence is at least as bad as scenario 1, and it keeps happening, and you have no way of knowing when or if it will end. If you tell anyone what is happening, it is extremely likely they will say to you why don't you just leave? ignoring the fact that countless statistics say that leaving an abusive relationship is the most risky thing you can do, in terms of your survival. You can't rely on anyone for support, and the situation is ongoing.

Scenarios 1 and 2 are both equally bad to me. In both you are having your world shaken. In 1, your judgement is called into question. You trusted this person enough to go on several dates with them, and they have shown they cannot be trusted. How many other people you trust can't be trusted? How many people whom you think you know and love will not believe you when you tell them your date has raped you, because your date would never do a thing like that, and it's not rape-rape if you didn't fight back hard, and anyway, it was the third date, shouldn't you have been giving up by then anyway?

At least in 2 people will believe you have been raped, but the sanctity of your home has been breached. Your safe place no longer feels safe. Is ANYWHERE safe?

Scenario 3 is still bloody awful, but for me it's the least awful. The physical damage to my person is likely to be more, but in my mind, I can depersonalise the attacker and rationalise it. I don't have to look my attacker in the face every day and pretend everything is normal. Nobody is going to disbelieve me (unless I was wearing revealing clothing, or had had a drink), and the police will investigate the matter thoroughly. There is the prospect of closure, of seeing my attacker punished, which is just not there in scenarios 1 and (to an extent) 4.

I can understand what people are saying when they say that you can't classify rapes; that each rape must be considered on a case by case basis, and that ranking types of rape is wrong. I can understand it, but I don't fully share that view. I do rank types of rape. I classify them and I rank them. The problem is that I give far more importance to the psychological damage caused by rape, and therefore my rankings are radically different from the rankings of those who only consider the physical damage caused by rape.

For me, I can conceive of cases of date rape that would be less awful than some forms of stranger rape, for example if if a stranger rape happens in a place where you previously felt safe, like your home. But if all other elements of the crime are equal (level of force applied, etc.) date rape is a lot worse than stranger rape. Where I do agree with those who say you can't categorise rape is that each case should be considered on its own facts, and no case of rape should automatically fall into one sentencing bracket or another.

But then, I think that about ALL crimes.
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[identity profile] andrewhickey.info 2011-05-19 09:42 am (UTC)(link)
Agreed with every word. The one point I'd make though is that Clarke later said he'd confused the terms 'date rape' and 'statutory rape' and hadn't been talking about 'date rape' at all.
(Personally I loathe the very term 'date rape' which trivialises a horrible, evil act).

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[identity profile] andrewhickey.info - 2011-05-19 09:46 (UTC) - Expand
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[personal profile] innerbrat 2011-05-19 10:47 am (UTC)(link)
He even clarified what he meant several times in the transcript I read. It was pretty obvious that he meant statutory rape.

And given that, and what he acctually said - I think about rape the way he appeared to think in that interview; that way being:

- IF reducing the sentence for pleading guilty alleviates the trial process for the victim/witnesses and increases the number of convictions, THEN there is a valid argument for reducing the sentence on a guilty plea.

- Increasing the number of convictions, making the trial process smoother for victims and witnesses and therefore increasing the number of charges (i.e. victims coming forward to be counted) is more important than satisfactorily exacting revenge on the one or two scenario 2s and 3s we're able to convict.

- Lumping all convictions for unlawful sexual assualts (including statutory rape) into one sample size and selecting the mean is not a valid way of assessing the recommended/average sentence for any of the scenarios presented above.
[Having said that, the sentence for my scenario 3 was seven years. However he was a minor at the time]

I agree with everything Jennie says, except the part where she namechecks Clarke, who is being scapegoated for a brainfart level word replacement.

(Also, I didn't vote. Can't rank those scenarios, sorry.)

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[personal profile] magister 2011-05-19 09:57 am (UTC)(link)
I agree with everything you've said here.

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pmoodie: (Default)

[personal profile] pmoodie 2011-05-19 10:02 am (UTC)(link)
I've never been raped, so all of this is pure conjecture, but here's the thinking behind my rankings:

I've ranked each scenario equally in terms of physical effects, because in each case I would have been forced to have sex against my will with what I assume would be a similar level of brutality in each case.

In psychological terms, I think I would feel far worse if this was done to me by someone I knew and trusted. I think I'd find it easier to recover from the experience if my assailant was a "faceless" stranger.

In overall terms, I think scenario 4 is the worst because it must be utterly soul destroying to have to live with sexual abuse as a regular occurrence, knowing it can (and will) happen again in the near future.

(Anonymous) 2011-05-19 10:05 am (UTC)(link)
With respect, 3 to me is not the least awful. I'm not going to try and quantify each of these, but psychologically, 3 has had more of a lasting impact on me than 1 (and that's regardless of the physical effects).

I think this perfectly illustrates what you say about not being able to categorise rape.

[personal profile] sassy_scot 2011-05-19 10:30 am (UTC)(link)
I knew you would get this absolutely spot on. Thank you.

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[personal profile] davegodfrey 2011-05-19 10:40 am (UTC)(link)
I think I can say which would have the least effect each time. But I can't be sure which would have the worst, so I have voted accordingly. I definitely agree with pmoodie about the psychological effects of being raped by someone you trusted.

Also if Ken Clarke was really talking about Statutory Rape, then that's a rather different discussion. Although I'm not sure we should have someone who misuses the terminology making these sorts of comments from a position of authority.

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[personal profile] ginasketch 2011-05-19 11:29 am (UTC)(link)
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[personal profile] purplecthulhu 2011-05-19 11:30 am (UTC)(link)
Very well said...

I think there are a lot of parallels between how some view rape and how many of the same people view child abuse (of all forms but especially sexual). They don't want to admit that most child abuse is perpetrated by someone known to the victim. In the case of child abuse that's usually a family member, a relative or close friend of the family. Rather than admit this, we as a culture focus on the abuser as the outside threat, the stranger danger, and try to ignore or explain away the larger number of times when the perpetrator is closer to home. This also explains why the reaction to strangers who are a danger is so strong - we're over-compensating. I assume that this is also the case with our reaction as a culture to rape.

Once again we should look to real numbers rather than trusting to instincts. I think that this does happen with child abuse, but rather less so with rape where victim blaming is so much easier.

The other thing that this discussion has once again re-emphasised for me is just how many of the women I know have sexually assaulted in some way - something I find truly horrifying.

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[personal profile] magister 2011-05-19 12:17 pm (UTC)(link)
With child abuse, rather than victim blaming, you get the idea that the abused will one day become abusers themselves.

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[personal profile] telegramsam 2011-05-19 12:16 pm (UTC)(link)
All of those scenarios sound terribly traumatizing.

1 & 4 constitute a massive breach of trust, 2 & 3 would possibly leave the victim in a state of heightened stress & fear in "normal" places for quite a long time afterward (if not forever, I mean, shit, I felt freaked out after my apartment was broken into *when I wasn't even home* for a good couple of weeks).

All of them have high potential for physical injury, possibly of the permanent variety.

Really, I don't think one can just put these acts in some kind of "least bad to most bad" categories because all of them can ruin a person's life. If one must, I suppose 4 would edge out the others in terms of sheer horror due to the long-term, spirit-destroying nature of an abusive relationship.

But, as you said, people react differently to similar situations. And I don't think lawmakers and judges should be trying to determine what the "correct" emotional reaction of a victim of a crime is, and altering their punishment of the perpetrator according to that. It doesn't make any sense.
pmoodie: (Default)

[personal profile] pmoodie 2011-05-19 01:10 pm (UTC)(link)
I agree completely with this. It's easy for me to sit and muse hypothetically about how I might be affected by sexual abuse, but such musings have little bearing on the reality. Each case has to be looked at individually, with the effect on the victim as the deciding factor.

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Another scenario

(Anonymous) 2011-05-19 02:53 pm (UTC)(link)
I have neither an openID nor a Dreamwidth account but try never to comment anon - Douglas McLellan - www.douglasmclellan.net

Anyway, there is another scenario, or perhaps a variation on the first one, where both people drink enough alcohol to make asking for and granting consent is hard. This make behaviour hard to judge (from the mans perspective) and control (from the womans perspective) so the sex act can be well under way before consent is withdrawn and a rape allegation follows. Your 4 sceaniros are rape, without a doubt. When high levels of alcohol come into play on both sides the lines become less clear.

Re: Another scenario

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another aspect to this

[identity profile] neohippie.livejournal.com 2011-05-19 04:21 pm (UTC)(link)
Ok, I've never been raped and don't know much about it, but another thing I keep thinking of is how likely in these various situations is murder to accompany the rape?

I tend to hear about a lot of cases of the 2 or 3 type where the attacker rapes and then murders (or attempts to murder) the victim. In those scenarios I'd not only be sexually violated, but I'd also be fearing for my life.

But I suppose it's possible that the rapists in 1 and 4 are just as likely to end up murdering their victims. It just seems less likely to me for some reason (maybe because when a woman ends up dead, her husband or boyfriend is assumed to be the prime suspect).

So I think I would view 1 and 4 as a great violation of trust, but 2 and 3 would be an "I almost died" situation on top of a rape, like being robbed at gunpoint or being in a serious car accident.

(On the other hand, I HAVE almost died before, but I haven't been raped before, so maybe that's why my mind is fixating on that.)
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[personal profile] haggis 2011-05-19 08:54 pm (UTC)(link)
One aspect of 1 compared to 2 and 3 that hasn't been mentioned is that Example 1 will probably cause you to lose a significant proportion of your friends, including some who will verbally attack and smear you for suggesting that the lovely trustworthy person assaulted you.

I find it difficult to rank these scenarios without feeling I am suggesting certain victims suffer less. I have never been assaulted but I have friends who have. One of the common, heartbreaking features I have noticed is that the victim often feels that the term rape doesn't apply to their experience, it only applies to other, more 'serious' rapes.
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[personal profile] bagpuss 2011-05-19 10:17 pm (UTC)(link)
It is horrifying that people still have such misconceptions about rape be it stranger rape or rape committed by a friend or acquaintance. In my mind the second would seem worse because it seems like it would be easier to rationalise someone who you never knew committing such a horrific act that someone who you actually knew doing it even if it wasn't very well but thankfully I have never experienced sexual abuse and I hope I never do

I am annoyed that the press is hounding Clarke about this but not hounding Dorres about her argubly worse positions with respect to sex education and sex abuse

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[personal profile] po8crg 2011-05-20 10:22 am (UTC)(link)
Your point about a breach of trust - that date rape is intrinsically a breach of trust, where stranger rape isn't necessarily a breach of trust is an important one.

Breach of trust is already recognised as an aggravating factor in sentencing - for instance a shoplifter is given a lesser sentence than someone stealing goods from a shop they work in - so why not in rape cases?

There are already aggravating factors that apply to a lot of date rapes and abusive relationships:

Background of intimidation or coercion
Use of drugs, alcohol or other substance to facilitate the offence

Though I do note that "rape accompanied by ... abuse of trust" is a recommended 8 years custody if the victim is 16 or over (against 5 without an abuse of trust) but I don't think they regard a date as a trust in that sense. Perhaps the CPS should review their guidance on that point?
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[personal profile] chess 2011-05-20 03:43 pm (UTC)(link)
I think the 'walking home from work' case would affect me worse than the 'in my own home' case, because in the latter case it is very clear that _nowhere_ is safe and I have to just get on with my life regardless, whereas in the former case it is just that the things everyone keeps telling me about not walking around on my own would be validated and I would be very likely to stop doing that, curtailing my enjoyment of life in a long-term fashion.

(Anonymous) 2011-05-20 07:53 pm (UTC)(link)
Oh come on, the real tricky scenario is surely you are lying in bed with your partner, your partner keeps trying to initiate sex, you don't want it and keep pushing your partner away, but eventually you just give in thinking "let's just get this over with so I can get some sleep". At what point does the giving in become so forced that it counts as "rape"? If your partner comes back with a knife and threatens you if you don't? Certainly "yes". If your partner pulls that cute little face and you feel a bit sorry for him/her and that makes you give in?