New police disclosure consent forms

Update:

See Lisa Longstaff of WAR interviewed on SKY News, 1 May 2019

Good account by anon survivor who went through three trials:

Giving my phone to police after my rape left me in limbo feeling violated

And another survivor’s account:
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/apr/29/sexual-assault-case-dropped-refused-police-phone-rape

Also, see good article by Dawn Foster here:
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/apr/29/rape-victims-phones-police-guidelines

WAR’s comment:

There’s a lot in the news today about the new ‘national consent forms’ victims of rape are being asked to sign authorising the police to trawl through their social media – phone, internet, computer, etc. – when investigating the rape. The CPS threatens to close any cases where the victim wants to put restrictions on what material they can access. We were interviewed on TV Sky News at 12.10pm.

This is closely related to the established practice of trawling through medical health records, school records and any records of sexual behaviour/sexual history. This irrelevant information is commonly used to discredit allegations and stop the case going to court or to trash you in court when you give evidence. Rape survivors already refer to their trial as a second rape – authorising new indiscriminate social media evidence will make it even worse. Some victims are calling it a ‘digital strip search’.

The gathering of evidence should focus on the violence which has been reported between x and y, not on who you slept with or sent texts to in the past, or whether you were assaulted as a child.

The police and Crown Prosecution Service can’t be trusted to judge what is ‘reasonable intrusion’ or ‘reasonable lines of inquiry’ when their record shows how sexist they are – that is why rape convictions are at an all time low (6% of reported rape) and falling.

Police and CPS have a duty to disclose information to the defence, including where it undermines the prosecution. That some cases may have collapsed because they didn’t disclose information which should have been disclosed is no reason to institute further trawling of irrelevant material which will inevitably be used by the defence to discredit victims.

We don’t see victims of other crimes (like burglary which also often happens in private without witnesses) treated with this assumption of suspicion, so why us?

We have campaigned for years for rape and sexual assault to be taken seriously; this is a throwback to police treating victims as suspects (without even the protections granted to suspects) and blaming us rather than their biased investigations for the low conviction rate. They want to put us back in our boxes and stop us reporting and getting justice.

This measure (like the proposal to bring in anonymity for rape suspects which crops up regularly) must be defeated.

For more info see: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/apr/29/new-police-disclosure-consent-forms-could-free-rape-suspects and most of the other national papers.

WAR’s 40th anniversary marked by Cambridge British History Sub-Committee

Cambridge University hosts a panel discussion in 2017 which marked 40 years since the founding of the group Women Against Rape (WAR). In these decades, WAR has campaigned consistently to combat rape culture and end the marital rape exemption in English law. Utilising a number of strikingly innovative methods, such as holding a ‘public trial’ of senior judges and politicians in Trafalgar Square in July 1977, WAR first caught the attention of the national press in the 1970s, but has only attracted the attention of historians within recent years. This year, Adrian Williamson published his article ‘The Law and the Politics of Marital Rape in England, 1945-1994’ in Women’s History Review, which was followed by a witness seminar on the subject, in which WAR representatives took part.

Though they have begun to be recognised as a group of significant historical interest, no concerted effort has been made to look at WAR in its own right. This event seeks to do just that. In particular, it aims to examine and discuss:

The emergence of WAR, and the group’s early years;
-The activism and methods of the group, from its establishment in 1976 to the present day;
-The emphasis which WAR placed on marriage (as an institution of rape), and to discuss the group’s engagement with the concept of marriage more broadly;
-Black Women’s Rape Action Project (BWRAP), with whom WAR still works, and of how WAR engaged with race. This event also marks BWRAP’s 25th anniversary;
-WAR’s current campaigns, activities, and the impact of austerity on their work.

This event will take the form of a panel discussion. Chaired by Dr Lucy Delap, the panel will boast activists past and present from WAR and BWRAP, the legal historian Adrian Williamson, and other experts in the field.

The event will be hosted by the University of Cambridge, generously supported by the MPhil Modern British History sub-committee, whom the organisers wish to thank, and will take place on Tuesday 7th February 2017 to coincide with Sexual Violence Awareness Week.

Read more Cambridge University event

WAR on Mayday march, 1 May – join us

Meet Clerkenwell Green from 12.00 march to Trafalgar Square. https://www.londonmayday.org/

We will highlight our campaign with the Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union to end sexual harassment in the fast food and hospitality industries. Poverty wages, zero hour contracts, benefit cuts, insecure immigration status and the threat that we can lose our job or that social services can take our kids if we report sexual violence are making women more vulnerable to attack.

We will be marching with the English Collective of Prostitutes and a “A Very British Brothel”, in support of their #makeallwomensafe campaign for decriminalisation. The criminalisation of sex work must end. Why should the law make any of us unsafe by calling us criminals? Why should any of us be discouraged from reporting violence and demanding justice and protection for fear that police will arrest us instead of our attacker?

More info on #makeallwomensafe:
The ECP’s campaign #makeallwomensafe raises sex workers’ safety. A short film directed by Bafta nominated Charlotte Regan starring Lyndsey Marshal, highlights the injustice that while sex work is legal, it is illegal for women to work together for safety. Women are forced to choose between risking arrest by working with others or risking being attacked by working alone. A government petition calls for implementation of the Home Affairs Recommendation to decriminalise sex workers on the street and in premises. Support has come from celebrities such as Sarah Solemani (Bridget Jones’ Baby) and Amnesty International. See media coverage: The Guardian, Vice, Refinary, The F Word and Huffington Post.