In our secret family courts, judges still don’t understand what rape means

Louise Tickle The Guardian 5 January 2020

It’s a scandal. Away from scrutiny, courtrooms are failing mothers by not taking evidence of sexual assault seriously

When is rape, you know, real, proper rape? Shockingly, in our family courts, it seems it’s only when you put up a fight and have the injuries to show for it. Never mind that you might clearly not consent to sex but in the end submit, terrified of what might happen if you were to actively resist.

In one recently reported case in the family courts a woman had complained to the court that she was a victim of domestic violence and had been raped.

Judge Robin Tolson ruled that because the woman had taken “no physical steps” to stop the man from raping her, “this did not constitute rape”, and consequently ruled against her.

Legally speaking, this means that when it comes to that same judge deciding whether or not, say, it is safe for a father to have contact with his child, claims of sexual violence will not be taken into account. Because, in the eyes of the court, that rape simply didn’t happen.

The fact that the family law system in this country is hidden behind a veil of secrecy means that these offensively vintage attitudes to rape and domestic violence can persist in courts that tens of thousands of separating couples must pass through every year. And it raises the question: what other outrageously sexist decisions are being made by out-of-touch judges behind closed doors?

The woman in the above case was so horrified at the judge’s finding that she challenged it via appeal. Unlike in a normal family court hearing, appeals are heard in public, and findings can be openly reported.

It is only because of this tiny chink in the family justice system’s protective shield that we are able to glimpse inside Judge Tolson’s courtroom, and see such attitudes for what they are. The usual level of secrecy in the family courts stifles investigation and reporting of what goes on.

I am typically contacted several times a week by women who say family judges have not taken their evidence of domestic abuse seriously. These women, often mothers fearful of the man they say abused and sometimes raped them, are without question retraumatised by a system presided over by some judges who have simply not accepted a modern understanding of what is and is not domestic abuse or sexual assault.

Women point particularly to difficulties in proving coercive control, a dangerous pattern of abusive behaviour that can indicate a risk of homicide. Coercive control is now a criminal offence; but in family courts, I am repeatedly told, judges are reluctant to name it, even if they find that emotional and psychological abuse has occurred.

Not only that. Women say that judges can even agree domestic abuse has occurred but not consider it serious enough to protect the victim and child from what we now know to be its damaging continuing effects: an abusive ex can easily continue their controlling behaviour throughout many years of court-ordered contact with a child.

If it were “just” scores of women telling me that this is happening, then these allegations would be exactly that: allegations. However, I recently sat through days of evidence in a family court case involving claims of domestic abuse and a dispute around child contact arrangements. The judge in that case made it clear he is unlikely to publish a judgment, and it is therefore unlikely at this stage that he will agree to allow the media to publish any part of what went on in court.

But I can say that I emerged from that courtroom astonished, dismayed and alarmed for very similar reasons to those that prompted the woman described above to appeal against a different judge’s findings about what constitutes rape.

In the year ending March 2019, more than 58,000 allegations of rape were made to police in England and Wales. It is an uncomfortable fact that many women are forced to have sex without their consent within relationships. It may be inconvenient for a family law system that operates on the principle that children are better off having contact with both their parents to acknowledge this truth. But surely any judge who grasps the mechanisms and psychological effects of coercive control should understand that you don’t need to be physically forced, there don’t need to be bruises, and you don’t need to scream, in order for it to be rape.

This is 2020, not 1920. Society has moved on. So have the criminal courts, which are open to scrutiny and would be instantly challenged should any barrister or judge articulate such archaic attitudes. Unless you have the courage and the cash to go to appeal, however, the family courts are essentially unaccountable to the public they serve.

Thanks to one of the most senior judges in the land coming firmly down on the side of the woman in the Judge Tolson case, she won her appeal. But it may well feel like a hollow victory. She will now have to relive every aspect of her evidence of domestic abuse and sexual assault at a new fact-finding hearing. This will be in front of a different judge. But that court will, once again, sit in private. How can we – or she – know what attitudes to sexual violence lie in store for her there?

• Louise Tickle is a journalist who specialises in social affairs and family law

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/jan/05/secret-family-courts-judges-rape-evidence-sexual-assault

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Cyprus rape case: on the day before sentencing Women Against Rape points to similar outrageous cases in the UK

We share the outrage of women in Cyprus protesting against the conviction of a 19-year-old British woman who faces prison after reporting gang rape by 12 Israeli men in Ayia Napa. We welcome the UK government’s concern at the unfairness of the trial. But where is the acknowledgement that rape victims in the UK also face prison if they are disbelieved?

The Cyprus police forced the woman to retract after nine hours of questioning without a lawyer; she was then charged for lying. The trial judge refused to hear evidence that the woman had been raped, stating “this is not a rape case, I will not consider whether she was raped or not.” 

We have worked with women in the UK who were prosecuted and imprisoned after receiving similar treatment at the hands of the British police. Some way through the investigation into their rape the police decided they did not believe them and turned the investigation against the women without even affording them any of the rights a defendant would have had, such as a lawyer. 

We raised this with Keir Starmer when he was Director of Public Prosecutions (2008-13) and was overseeing a review of prosecutions of women who are disbelieved. We insisted he meet the sister of a woman sentenced to three years in prison after being attacked on her way home by two strangers: there was compelling evidence of a biased police investigation and a biased trial. We also wrote to Starmer asking for the prosecution of a woman who was repeatedly raped, again by a stranger, to be dropped. Both women had been pressurised by the police to retract their allegations. The first refused, the second retracted – it made no difference, both were prosecuted and imprisoned.

We told the DPP and his successor Alison Saunders that the policy of prosecuting rape victims who are disbelieved skews police investigations and undermines women’s ability to report rape. It encourages the centuries-old institutional sexism of police and courts which has never gone away despite official pronouncements to the contrary. How else can we explain that 40 years since the birth of the modern-day anti-rape movement rape prosecutions are at an all-time low and still falling: 3% of reported rapes lead to a conviction granting rapists almost complete impunity.

Our warnings fell on deaf ears. Starmer, while claiming to stand with women against rape, refused to stand with victims once the police had disbelieved them. And so today, victims who are accused of lying face longer sentences in Britain than the woman in Cyprus does for the same ‘crime’ – often way longer than the average sentences given to convicted rapists.

We have helped to overturn some cases, proving how easy it is for victims to be treated as perpetrators. One woman had been raped at age 15 and charged with lying when police claimed to have found no sperm on her T-shirt where she’d said her rapist had ejaculated. Our support led to a second investigation by another police force who found the sperm and the man was prosecuted. The woman later sued the police for £20,000.  Another teenage girl who reported a sexual assault had her summary fine quashed – it had been issued when police decided they didn’t believe her. We don’t know how many other women are charged and fined similarly, and are too scared or unable to find the help to fight these injustices.

It is not only the criminal courts that are at fault. The family courts are even worse. Mothers who disclose rape and domestic violence by violent ex-partners risk having their children taken away and handed to the father, even when he has a record for rape or DV. The government is due to report on its review of family court treatment of DV victims.

Recent decisions by police and CPS that victims must hand over their whole mobile phone and social media history, medical and counselling records, and that these must be disclosed to their attacker has led to a further drop in rape prosecutions. Like in Cyprus, in most British cases it is not the rapists that are on trial but their victims.

It has been claimed that the Israeli men were let go because Cyprus wants to protect its political and economic relations with Israel. How much do politics influence court decisions in Britain and elsewhere? We don’t know. But we do know that powerful and well-connected men, like Harvey Weinstein whose trial in the US has just begun, are more likely to get away with it. On the other hand, whistle-blowers like Julian Assange whom governments want to silence because they expose rape and murder by the state, are assumed to be guilty of sexual offences even when they haven’t been charged. 

Women Against Rape can be contacted at 0207 482 2496 or war@womenagainstrape.net 

Cyprus rape case: on the day before sentencing Women Against Rape points to similar outrageous cases in the UK

We share the outrage of women in Cyprus protesting against the conviction of a 19-year-old British woman who faces prison after reporting gang rape by 12 Israeli men in Ayia Napa. We welcome the UK government’s concern at the unfairness of the trial. But where is the acknowledgement that rape victims in the UK also face prison if they are disbelieved?

The Cyprus police forced the woman to retract after nine hours of questioning without a lawyer; she was then charged for lying. The trial judge refused to hear evidence that the woman had been raped, stating “this is not a rape case, I will not consider whether she was raped or not.” 

We have worked with women in the UK who were prosecuted and imprisoned after receiving similar treatment at the hands of the British police. Some way through the investigation into their rape the police decided they did not believe them and turned the investigation against the women without even affording them any of the rights a defendant would have had, such as a lawyer. 

We raised this with Keir Starmer when he was Director of Public Prosecutions (2008-13) and was overseeing a review of prosecutions of women who are disbelieved. We insisted he meet the sister of a woman sentenced to three years in prison after being attacked on her way home by two strangers: there was compelling evidence of a biased police investigation and a biased trial. We also wrote to Starmer asking for the prosecution of a woman who was repeatedly raped, again by a stranger, to be dropped. Both women had been pressurised by the police to retract their allegations. The first refused, the second retracted – it made no difference, both were prosecuted and imprisoned.

We told the DPP and his successor Alison Saunders that the policy of prosecuting rape victims who are disbelieved skews police investigations and undermines women’s ability to report rape. It encourages the centuries-old institutional sexism of police and courts which has never gone away despite official pronouncements to the contrary. How else can we explain that 40 years since the birth of the modern-day anti-rape movement rape prosecutions are at an all-time low and still falling: 3% of reported rapes lead to a conviction granting rapists almost complete impunity.

Our warnings fell on deaf ears. Starmer, while claiming to stand with women against rape, refused to stand with victims once the police had disbelieved them. And so today, victims who are accused of lying face longer sentences in Britain than the woman in Cyprus does for the same ‘crime’ – often way longer than the average sentences given to convicted rapists.

We have helped to overturn some cases, proving how easy it is for victims to be treated as perpetrators. One woman had been raped at age 15 and charged with lying when police claimed to have found no sperm on her T-shirt where she’d said her rapist had ejaculated. Our support led to a second investigation by another police force who found the sperm and the man was prosecuted. The woman later sued the police for £20,000.  Another teenage girl who reported a sexual assault had her summary fine quashed – it had been issued when police decided they didn’t believe her. We don’t know how many other women are charged and fined similarly, and are too scared or unable to find the help to fight these injustices.

It is not only the criminal courts that are at fault. The family courts are even worse. Mothers who disclose rape and domestic violence by violent ex-partners risk having their children taken away and handed to the father, even when he has a record for rape or DV. The government is due to report on its review of family court treatment of DV victims.

Recent decisions by police and CPS that victims must hand over their whole mobile phone and social media history, medical and counselling records, and that these must be disclosed to their attacker has led to a further drop in rape prosecutions. Like in Cyprus, in most British cases it is not the rapists that are on trial but their victims.

It has been claimed that the Israeli men were let go because Cyprus wants to protect its political and economic relations with Israel. How much do politics influence court decisions in Britain and elsewhere? We don’t know. But we do know that powerful and well-connected men, like Harvey Weinstein whose trial in the US has just begun, are more likely to get away with it. On the other hand, whistle-blowers like Julian Assange whom governments want to silence because they expose rape and murder by the state, are assumed to be guilty of sexual offences even when they haven’t been charged. 

Women Against Rape can be contacted at 0207 482 2496 or war@womenagainstrape.net 

Lisa Longstaff speaking at #FreetheTruth in defence of Julian Assange

Lisa Longstaff speaks for of Women Against Rape about the weaponising of sexual offenses allegations by governments intent on covering up their war crimes -including rape and torture. Full speech here with subtitles https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2I2kfpa_T8&t=7s

This was an incredibly moving meeting organised by Deepa Driver, with powerful inspiring speakers including Craig Murray, Fidel Narvaez, John Pilger, Lissa K Johnson, Lowkey, Mark Curtis, UN Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer. London 28 Nov 2019

See excerpt from the speech here.

Urgent Christmas appeal for destitute women and children

Dear Friends,

As Christmas and the school holidays are almost here, we write to ask again if you could kindly donate to our annual Christmas appeal for destitute women and children in the All African Women’s Group (AAWG) — the self-help group of women asylum seekers based with us at the Crossroads Women’s Centre. About 2/3 of women in the AAWG have been in detention and many of them are mothers, some are lesbian women. Each year we have been able to ensure that women have some money in their hands to cover essentials over the holiday period when they are without the usual support, including food and second hand clothes, that the Centre provides.

We appreciate that the people we approach for help often don’t have much themselves and are always amazed at the generosity, lovely comments and good wishes we receive.

Last year people as a result of this generosity, we were able to give 50 women a one-off payment of approximately £50 with which they were able to buy food and other essentials. We worked together to distribute the money raised.  A third of women at AAWG meetings, are destitute without any income.Many are suffering from physical and mental health problems from rape and other torture that they suffered.

Like millions of people in this country women are dependent on food banks throughout the year. Some women are on National Asylum Support but can barely survive on the weekly allowance of £37. Some are living in terrible slum housing with abusive landlords who take advantage of their vulnerable position. Mothers are particularly desperate. Having a little cash in their hands means that women get some respite from dependency and the grinding worry of how they are going to survive the day or week.

Women who are fighting for asylum knowing that their lives would be in danger if they were sent back are able to get help and support with this too. Using LAW’s Self -Help Asylum Guidewomen take part in weekly work sessions with Black Women’s Rape Action Project and Women Against Rape to work on their own and each other’s cases,  including taking calls from women in detention. All are encouraged and strengthened by the collective work at the Centre.

Women also speak at public events about the often hidden situation of women seeking asylum.With the climate crisis at the forefront of everyone’s minds, AAWG women have been speakingas farmers and as mothers, the primary carers in every society, who do the work of ensuring that people are fed, and who have been evicted or seen their land destroyed by environmental devastation.

This year we have had more lovely victories including a young woman from Albania who was at risk of honour killing if returned to her home country who won her case after nine years. Yet even having won this  may not be the end of the struggle as some women are fighting for housing years after winning their status and many are still fighting to be reunited with children they were forced to leave behind when they fled.

We are trying to raise at least £2000 to ensure that the women who regularly attend AAWG’s monthlyself-help meetings get a small cash payment. Anything you can give, no matter how small, will help.

Best wishes,

Niki Adams

How to donate:

  1. Through Crossroads Women’s Christmas Asylum Appeal 2019 fundraising page. If you are a taxpayer the value of your donation is increased by 20% atno extra cost to yourself if you choose to add Gift Aid to your donation.
  2. Money transfer to Legal Action for Women, Unity Trust Bank, account number – 50728361, sort code – 086001.  If donating online or direct into our account, we would appreciate an email to let us know. 
  3. By cheque, payable to Legal Action for Women – please specify that you are donating in response to the Christmas Appeal.

If you would like to donate non-perishable food, toiletries or other essential items, these would also be very much appreciated.  They can be delivered any day before 19 December to the Women’s Centre in Kentish Town (25 Wolsey Mews, NW5 2DX).

Thank You!

Legal Action for Women

 law@allwomencount.net  
Crossroads Women’s Centre, 25 Wolsey Mews, NW5 2DX Tel: 020 7482 2496

No Bad Women

Please note – all shows are now sold out

See this page for reviews, pics, info on our cast and history of the play and trial.

Some fabulous photos from the play by the renowned photographer Simon Annand:

REVIEWS:

Review 31: Because she was a prostitutereview by Frith Taylor

. . . The trial unfolds in what feels like real time; witnesses are examined and cross-examined, and we wait for the final verdict. Courtroom dramas are meant to be pacey and exciting, and resolve in a satisfying distribution of justice. But this play does things differently. We watch Patricia Whitfield and Elizabeth Harris in the stand answering questions, sometimes nervously, sometimes fiercely, trying to get the details right. When they are asked to describe the assault itself, the attacks are enacted as flashbacks. This interruption in generic convention results in scenes of almost unbearable tension. These parts are intensified by the play’s immersive staging.


Good Sex Bad Sex, Nov 6 podcast by MetroUK features No Bad Women – Rape on Trial

Lisa Longstaff from Women Against Rape talks to Bibi Lynch and Miranda Kane about the play. Listen: http://www.listennotes.com/podcasts/good-sex-bad-sex/rape-on-trial-7djpDqitOhX/


INTERVIEW-Sex workers denied justice over rapes, says UK prostitutes’ collective

by Sonia Elks | @SoniaElks | Thomson Reuters Foundation 5 November 2019 12:33 GMT

LONDON, Nov 5 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Police and prosecutors are becoming less willing to take action over rapes reported by sex workers, the English Collective of Prostitutes (ECP) said as a play highlighted their work to bring England’s first private rape prosecution.

Nearly 25 years on from the landmark 1995 trial, sex workers still struggle to obtain justice over rape and other attacks at work as they face scepticism from officials and fear of being prosecuted themselves, said ECP member Niki Adams.

“At some point it seemed that things were improving,” Adams told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“Now feels that it is going backwards.”

The ECP estimates about two-thirds of sex workers have suffered some kind of violence.

Read full article http://news.trust.org/item/20191105120530-v6kp7/


Radio AVA podcast:


Interviews with Director Lesley Delmenico and Producer Lisa Longstaff, and excerpts from the play in rehearsal. Listen https://www.mixcloud.com/avaradio/oct-2019-p1-film-hustlers-twitter-clarsypatron-rant-online-escoring-sites-play-no-bad-women/ TC: 51:11- 1:23:05

Camden New Journal review by Clair Chapwell, 7 Nov 2019


Diva Review by Jane Fae


Vice Magazine by @emmaggarlandThe Legal System Failed Two Sex Workers – So They Took Their Rapist to Court

Lisa Longstaff of WAR referred to the context at the time of its Dossier of 15 other cases that should have been prosecuted, adding: “None of them were sex workers, but they were all women who didn’t have a high social status or were related to the attacker,” she explains. “Women who were under 16, women who were married to or partnered with their attacker, women of colour and women with insecure immigration status. You could just see there was prejudice against them, and the woman weren’t backed against the man who, in most cases, had a higher social status.”

Niki Adams of the English Collective of Prostitutes said: “Sex workers are usually only ever portrayed as poor victims, in order to justify the move to increase criminalisation in the name of saving us from ourselves and from violence, and this is a direct counter to that,” she says. “This is not two victims, this is two women who were victimised and who took their rapist to court – but it’s not a ‘happy hooker’ story either. It’s a real reflection of the reality of who goes into sex work, why, what happens to us, and how we struggle against those injustices.”

Read full article https://www.vice.com/en_uk/article/ne8md8/sex-workers-first-private-prosecution-rape-uk


Bridget Galton’s preview, first two pages of Et Cetera arts section in The Hampstead & Highgate Express 31 Oct


A brief history of the play and the precedent legal case

Sold-out pilot shows in 2015 had great reviews: “Challenging . . . uncompromising, everything theatre should be.”  Tribune

A rape trial which makes legal history. It’s 1995. Two sex workers have been raped separately at knifepoint while visiting a client’s house in suburbia. One is a mum, a tattooed biker and former teacher; the other writes porn to support a disabled husband.

They report the attacks. Despite continuing threats, the Crown Prosecution Service closes the case claiming ‘insufficient evidence’ – sex workers won’t be believed by a jury.

Outraged but scared, the women come to the English Collective of Prostitutes and Women Against Rape. The groups assemble a legal team to take on the rapist and prevent him attacking other women.

This was the first ever private prosecution for rape in England and Wales. The play is a dramatisation of this bold and imaginative fight for justice, drawn from the trial transcript. But can women who do sex work win?

At Clean Break, 2 Patshull Rd, London NW5 2LB 7.30pm 1-14 Nov 2019.

Please donate to crowdfunding appeal: https://www.gofundme.com/f/no-bad-women


Cast (alphabetical order)

Duncan Hess – His Honour Judge Carson

Maria Lovelady – Patricia Whitfield

Erina Mashate – Police officer/Clerk/Jury Foreman

Stephanie Noblet – Elizabeth Harris

Christopher Poke – Mr Alloway

Jacob Trenerry – Stephen Donaldson, aka Terry

Toby Trimby – Jack Whitfield

Michael Tuffnell – Mr Murphy

Peter York – Paul Harris

Tweet by Sue Odell, casting director:

“Saw ‘No Bad Women’ @CleanBrk, Lesley Delmenico’s important & excellent dramatisation of an iconic 1992 rape trial produced by Lisa Longstaff @AgainstRape. Shout out to superb actors @MariaLovelady & Stephanie Noblet. Book tickets: http://nobadwomen.brownpapertickets.com @ProstitutesColl”

The Production Team

Lesley Delmenico – Writer/Director

Lisa Longstaff – Producer

Darius Gervinskas – Stage Manager

Arvid Zollinger – Lighting designer/operator


Fall in rape charges despite rise in reports is ‘creating new victims’

Dame Vera Baird QC warns over failure to prosecute as charge rate drops from 6.8% to 4.2%

PA Media

Thu 29 Aug 2019 00.01 BST

 Dame Vera Baird, the victims’ commissioner, called for the government to act quickly in its review of the handling of complaints.

The criminal justice system is putting more people at risk by failing to tackle potential serial rapists, the victims’ commissioner has warned.

Dame Vera Baird expressed the concerns as official figures showed that reports of rape are rising but the number of charges being brought has fallen.

Rapes reported to police rose by almost 13,000 to 54,045 in 2017-18, compared with 41,186 the previous year, with 11,913 attacks not recorded as crimes, up from 8,624.

The overall charge rate fell from 6.8% to 4.2%, according to data recorded by public bodies, gathered by the Rape Monitoring Group and published by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary.

Baird said the government needed to act quickly in its review of how complaints were handled to make sure victims received justice: “The criminal justice system is letting down current victims and creating new victims by failing to tackle potential serial rapists.”

Only one in every 50 cases results in a conviction. How can this be justice?

She added: “More complainants are coming forward, but fewer cases are being prosecuted and only one in every 50 cases results in a conviction. How can this be justice? We know that nearly four in five victims of sexual assault choose not to report the crimes committed against them. How can we ever give these victims the confidence to report when so few cases ever secure a conviction?

“We need to understand the reasons behind this failure. It is in part down to the treatment of complainants by police and prosecutors – for example, failing to update them on investigations or making intrusive and disproportionate demands on their personal data. We also know that the treatment of complainants in the courtroom can cause trauma and distress.”

The data was recorded by bodies including the Home Office, the Office for National Statistics, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), covering all 43 police forces in England and Wales and the British Transport Police. It was previously published separately.

The CPS decided not to charge any suspects in just under half the cases. For 24,280 of the offences there were “evidential difficulties”, such as the victim not supporting a prosecution. There were 2,238 offences that resulted in a charge or summons, with the outcome for 6,647 not yet recorded.

According to the latest MoJ figures, the average prison sentence for rape is about nine years.

Rebecca Hitchen, campaigns manager at the End Violence Against Women Coalition, said the figures were “truly shocking” and evidence of “just how broken the system is”.

She added: “This is a crisis and it needs the highest level of political attention. We urge the prime minister, the home secretary and the justice secretary to get fully involved in the ongoing rape review, from which very little has been heard. We urge them to demand answers as to what is going on. They should also make clear, public reassurances to women, and men, who are considering reporting rape, that meaningful work will be done to improve access to justice.”

A CPS spokesman said: “The growing gap between the number of rapes recorded and the number of cases going to court is a great cause of concern. That’s why the CPS is taking part in a system-wide review to scrutinise how these cases are being handled.” He added that the “significant fall in the volume of referrals from the police” had contributed to the drop in rape charges.

Wendy Williams, an inspector of constabulary, said it was vital that statistics about rape were made as transparent as possible and she hoped the data would help the criminal justice system do all it could to “prevent this most heinous of crimes”.

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/aug/29/fall-in-charges-despite-rise-in-reports-is-creating-new-victims

Our response to Guardian report showing a significant fall in prosecutions in England and Wales

Revealed: collapse in rape cases that end up in court, 27 July 2019

• It is shocking that after decades of campaigning by women and repeated official claims that scandals like Savile, Worboys and Rotherham are things of the past, we learn that rape charging has collapsed even further. It is not because victims don’t come forward. There is “a sharp rise in reports of rape made to police … from 2015 to 2019, the number of rape claims … rose by 61%, from 35,847 to 57,882”. Two women a week, many of them mothers, are killed by partners or ex-partners – usually after reporting multiple assaults and threats which go unheeded by police. Rape and domestic violence terrorise women daily, yet perpetrators can count on almost complete impunity.

How much does the latest drop in charging have to do with the abolition of specialist rape investigation units and “digital strip search”? We and many others, including the information commissioner and victims commissioner, objected to this indiscriminate download of victims’ social media. Big Brother Watch claims the police powers used against victims are more extensive than those used against crime suspects; lawyers question whether they are even legal.

Boris Johnson, who as London mayor made sweeping cuts to the police service, now wants to recruit 20,000 additional officers. Will any of them be used to police the terrorism of rape and domestic violence? Or will they be deployed to repress us when we protest against lack of action on sexist or racist violence, climate change, or child poverty?
Cristel Amiss Black Women’s Rape Action Project 
Lisa Longstaff Women Against Rape

No Bad Women

Please help Women Against Rape and the English Collective of Prostitutes raise funds to stage a dramatic production of a rape trial where two sex workers took on their rapist in court.

Call for actors,(some roles with part time pay, others travel and food expenses), technitions, stage manager, general help. Auditions 17-19 Sept For character list and production details, contact Lisa at war@womenagainstrape.net.

Make a donation here Go Fund Me

View teaser from rehearsals in 2015, when the play was called ‘Pursuing Justice’. Please support this bold creative project. Publicise, donate, take part.

It’s 1995.  Two sex workers have been raped separately at knifepoint while visiting a client’s house in suburbia. They report it, but despite continuing threats, the Crown Prosecution Service closed the case claiming ‘insufficient evidence’.

Scared and outraged, the women came to the English Collective of Prostitutes and Women Against Rape. They assembled a legal team to take the rapist to court, and prevent attacks on more women.

This bold imaginative action was the first ever private prosecution for rape in England and Wales.

This play is the moving dramatisation of the trial, drawn from the transcript.

Tension builds towards the final verdict – will the women get protection and justice?

Sold-out pilot shows in 2015 had great reviews: “Challenging . . . uncompromising, everything theatre should be.”  Tribune

Call for actors,(some roles with part time pay, others travel and food expenses), technitions, stage manager, general help. Auditions 17-19 Sept For character list and production details, contact Lisa at war@womenagainstrape.net.

Why now?

The case established that every victim is entitled to justice. This principle was picked up by the #MeToo and TimesUp movements and accounts of rape and other violence poured out from women from all walks of life. A play that looks at who is classed as an “unreliable witness” and who a jury will believe is right on time.

Austerity cuts have targeted women. Rising poverty makes it harder for women to resist and escape exploitation and violence. More women, particularly mothers are going into sex work to feed their children. Yet, sex workers are deterred from reporting violence by the fear of arrest and for migrant workers, the fear of deportation.

When and where

1 to 14 November 2019 [except Sundays 3rd and 10th Nov], 7pm, Clean Break, 2 Patshull Rd, Kentish Town, London NW5 2LB.  

Wheelchair access. Sign-language interpreters at some shows.

Q&As with an original complainant, the cast and campaigners from ECP and WAR will follow six performances. 

Directed by renowned US writer-director, Lesley Delmenico.

To make it happen we need to raise a further £10,000

Your donations will help fund:

  • Nine actors
  • Costumes
  • Lighting and sound
  • Rehearsal space
  • Stage manager fees
  • Travel and expenses for 10 volunteers
  • Graphic design for marketing online and printing
  • Subsidised tickets for refugees, asylum seekers and unwaged people
  • Sign language interpreters

Make a donation here Go Fund Me

Assange: UN Rapporteur on Torture is right to be alarmed at the manipulation of rape allegations

For over four decades we have campaigned to get rapists convicted. But the pursuit of Julian Assange is not driven by any concerns about rape but by US government pressure to punish him for his Wikileaks exposes on war crimes. Nils Melzer, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Cruel and Degrading Treatment, is right to be alarmed.  

At the time of the original allegations against Julian Assange, we pointed to the unusual zeal with which he was being pursued. (Guardian 19 Dec 2010 and 23 August 2012). It is unlike any other rape investigation we have seen anywhere.

The low UK rate of charging men for reported rape (figures just published show it has dropped even further from 14% to 2.5% in four years) – resulting largely from negligent and biased investigations and prosecutions, speaks volumes about how rape is generally dealt with.  Only one in 65 reports result in a summons or charge.  The police excuse for this is that they are overwhelmed and understaffed.

But every resource has been thrown at the Assange case, at great cost to the taxpayer for which he has then been blamed.  

It is not for us to decide whether or not any allegation made against Mr Assange is true and whether what happened amounts to rape or sexual violence – we don’t have all the facts and what has been said has not been tested. But we do know that rape victims’ right to anonymity and defendants’ right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty are both crucial to a just judicial process.

In this case the judicial process was corrupted from the beginning and justice denied both to accusers and accused. On the one hand, the names of the women were circulated on the internet; they were trashed, accused of setting a “honey trap”, their allegations dismissed as “not real rape”. On the other hand, Mr Assange has been treated by much of the media as if he were guilty, though he has not even been charged.

Swedish and British prosecutors are responsible for how the women’s allegations have been handled. As with every rape prosecution, the women are not in charge of the case, the state is.

Julian Assange has always made clear that he was available for any investigation into the allegations, and he was in Sweden during the first investigation which cleared him. He also made clear that his only concern was not to be extradited to the US from Sweden if he returned there, and that’s why he sought asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy. Sweden refused to give guarantees on the grounds that no such request from the US had been made.   

But as soon as Julian Assange was taken out of the Ecuadorian embassy after a change of government, the US initiated extradition proceedings and laid 17 charges including for ‘espionage’.

Nils Melzer warns of the implications of the witch-hunt against Mr Assange in the course of documenting the effects of his forced confinement, now imprisonment. Mr Melzer wrote in his Op Ed:

…Assange had been systematically slandered to divert attention from the crimes he exposed. Once he had been dehumanized through isolation, ridicule and shame, just like the witches we used to burn at the stake, it was easy to deprive him of his most fundamental rights without provoking public outrage worldwide. And thus a legal precedent is being set…

We are glad Mr Melzer revised some of his comments on the women’s allegations, but his overall point remains. Mr Assange is being publicly vilified in order to divert attention from the state’s revenge and silencing. We are alarmed by the precedent this sets for journalists and whistle-blowers everywhere. We oppose torture and the death penalty. We cannot condone the way rape allegations against an individual continue to be used to pursue a political agenda intent on hiding rape, torture and murder committed by the state.

Having worked with thousands of rape victims who are seeking asylum from rape and other forms of torture, we have met nothing but obstruction from British governments. Time after time, they have accused women of lying and deported them with no concern for their safety. So don’t tell us they are concerned about victims of rape.

Where is the campaign demanding justice for the rapes and murders Wikileaks exposed? Who will speak up for these victims if whistle-blowers are silenced?

In 2004, together with Black Women’s Rape Action Project, we wrote to women MPs about the war crimes and torture, including rape, under US-UK occupation, that were being committed in Iraq and Afghanistan. We received no reply.

Chelsea Manning (currently re-imprisoned despite President Obama having commuted her sentence) was able to use Wikileaks to expose the extensive cover up of rape, other sexual violence and murder, including of women and children, by the US military in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Iraq. Do these victims not count?

Both Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning have already suffered years of isolation, confinement, imprisonment, public vilification and humiliation, longer and more shaming than many men convicted of rape.

Once again women’s fury and frustration at the injustices we face, is being manipulated by governments for their own purposes. Sending someone to their death or life imprisonment and torture in the US for ‘espionage’ isn’t justice for rape.