Supreme Court today: rape victims vs Theresa May and police

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UPDATE: The Supreme Court upheld the women’s claim – a significant victory for all rape survivors!

Today 21 February, the Supreme Court will give the verdict on a police appeal to overturn a high court decision which protects rape victims.  This shameful appeal was backed by Prime Minister Theresa May.

Biased and negligent police investigations are a major reason the conviction rate for reported rape remains a disgraceful 6%.  For decades victims of rape have fought for their right to thorough investigations and for the gathering of evidence that could result in the prosecution of their attackers.  In the John Warboys case (prosecuted in 2009), police hostility to his victims enabled him to sexually assault over 100 women with impunity.  One victim spoke publicly about how the police laughed in her face at her reporting a taxi driver.

In a pathbreaking case in 2014, two of Warboys’ victims used Article 3 of the Human Rights Act to uphold their right to state protection from serious violence (police investigation of crime), and won damages for inhuman and degrading treatment.

Other victims had previously taken similar legal actions. In 2012 Ms X won compensation from the Met after suing the police for breach of policy on the investigation of rape.  Ms X worked with WAR for seven years to uncover what went wrong.  After an in-depth IPCC investigation which spelled out the most horrendous police incompetence and negligence, she took the case through the civil court using this same Article 3 (and Article 8) and was awarded £15,000. The victim’s mother, who worked tirelessly for justice against the systemic police problems on child rape exposed by her daughter’s case said, “When you walk into a police station to report rape you expect the police to investigate thoroughly. I was devastated when they didn’t, because I’d encouraged my daughter to report against her wishes and felt I had let her down.”

May’s support for this legal appeal gives the lie to her pledges to improve laws protecting women from violence.  She also wants to repeal the Human Rights Act, one of the only routes rape survivors have been able to use to hold the police to account, breaking with years of impunity.

May’s blatant hypocrisy is also exposed by her economic policy, slashing women’s escape routes from violence.

Philip Hammond’s budget announcement last year of £30m support for women hides the outrageous financial attacks on women by successive governments, which have increased women and children’s vulnerability to rape and domestic violence, and cut our protection and escape routes:

·       86% of austerity cuts have fallen on women, cutting helplines, refuges, legal aid and criminal injuries compensation;

·       17% of refuges have closed since 2010; 2 in 3 women, and 4 in 5 BME women are turned away from a refuge every day; refuges must compete for dwindling council funds against housing, roads, libraries, etc.; many will close under new proposals to cut housing benefit on which 50 % of refuges depend;

·       the children of mothers who report domestic violence and/or have been impoverished are taken from their mothers who are denied the support and protection they are entitled to; the number of children in care is the highest it’s been for 35 years; the UK has the highest adoption rate in Europe, 90% of it without the family’s consent; this amounts to punishment for mothers reporting rape;

·       victims of domestic violence are denied legal aid and forced to defend themselves against violent ex-partners in the family court; evidence of violence is dismissed and children are forced into contact or even to live with violent fathers, endangering and in some cases ending their lives;

·       women and children seeking asylum from rape and other torture have been refused entry, detained, made destitute and deported;

·       slashed benefits and punitive sanctions have forced mothers into low-waged zero hours jobs or prostitution to feed their kids;

·       sold off public housing has given free reign to profiteering landlords, forcing poor families away from their support networks.

We hope the Supreme Court, now headed by a distinguished woman, will support the rights of rape victims.

 

 

New Website!

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Welcome to Againstrape.net

We’re in the process of moving everything from womenagainstrape.net over to this site, which will take some time. To find old posts and articles, please go to the old site until this has been updated and we’ll keep you updated.

Self Help Guides for Survivors

Link

This is a collective effort based on decades of experience of survivors and campaigners. It offers ways to tackle obstacles to justice you many face when reporting violence.

This online version of the Self-Help Guide is a PDF file, to access it you need Adobe Acrobat Reader, which you can download free from the internet.

To order a paper copy, please send a cheque to ‘Women Against Rape’, PO Box 287, London NW6 5QU.
Prices: individuals £3; unfunded organisations £5; professionals or solidarity price £10. Free to women in prison.

This online version of the Self-Help Guide is a PDF file, to access it you need Adobe Acrobat Reader, which you can download free from the internet.

Click justiceguidejune2016website to download the Self-Help Guide.

To order a paper copy, please send a cheque to ‘Women Against Rape’, PO Box 287, London NW6 5QU.
Prices: inidividuals £3; unfunded organisations £5; professionals or solidarity price £10. Free to women in prison.

This is a collective effort based on decades of experience of survivors and campaigners. It offers ways to tackle obstacles to justice you many face when reporting violence.

From a user: I wanted to write to say thank you for the brilliant self-help guide that you have on your website. It was only once I had read it, that I could fully come to terms with the fact that what happened to me was rape. Before this, I was denying the truth, hoping I suppose that if I didn’t use this awful, difficult word ‘rape’ that it would mean it didn’t really happen. I am so grateful to you for providing this information for me, and that I found it when I needed it. Thank you again, and I wish you all the strength and determination in this continuing battle.

Contents   (in order to view the different sections of the book you have to download it)
Page

A self-help guide                                                             2

Some basics of self-help                                                   4

Domestic violence                                                             5

  1. How the law defines rape. What is consent?           6
  2. I’ve just been raped                                                  7
  3. Should I report the rape?                                          8
  4.   I’m worried about being arrested or deported         8
  5. Reporting to the police                                              9
  6. Who will I deal with during the investigation?          10
  7. The Medical                                                             13
  8. Giving a statement                                                   17
  9. Written statement or video?                                     18
  10. What if they discourage me, press me to
    withdraw, or drop the case?                                     22
  11. The police investigation                                            24
  12. What if the police close the case against my
    will? (‘No crime.’)                                                      27
  1. Keeping informed (bail, etc.)                                    28
  2. Consent, drink and drugs                                         30
  3. Can I see the police record of my case?                  32
  4. The Crown Prosecution Service                               33
  5. What are the charges?                                             36
  6. If the case goes to court                                           38
  7. Will I get protection?                                                44
  8. Compensation – applying to the Criminal  Injuries
    Compensation Authority (CICA)                               45
  9. Complaining about the police                                   49
  10. Complaining to the CPS                                           52
  11. Complaining about the judge                                   55
  12. Can I sue my attacker?                                            56
  13. Resources                                                                56
  14. Glossary of term                                                       57
  15. Sample summary of a case                                      58
  16. Sample diary                                                             59
  17. About Women Against Rape                                     60

What people say about the Guide:

“Lucid, to the point. I recommend it.” Ian Madonald QC.

“People will grow in confidence and feel less intimidated by the authorities.” Sally Freeman, mother of rape survivor.

“I’ve learnt I am not alone challenging corruption, lies, bias, and incompetance.” Anoushka Arabella, rape survivor.

“All who work with survivors should have this Guide.” Annie Rose, Independent Sexual Violence Advocate, Respond.

“An incredibly useful tool.” Debaleena Dasgupta, solicitor.

“Can make the difference between winning and losing.” Cristel Amiss, Black Women’s Rape Action Project.

“For men supporting partners and friends, women and men, surviving rape.” Giorgio Riva, Payday men’s network.

For Asylum Seekers and their Supporters: A Self-Help Guide Against detention & removal by Legal Action for Women: This new and updated step-by-step guide comes out of intensive work over many years with women (and some men) seeking asylum. BWRAP and WAR have contributed to the pool of practical knowledge which is an invaluable and essential tool for victims of rape and other torture.  An online version of the Self-Help Guide is available here. To order a paper copy go to Crossroads Books online . Other Self-Help Tools are also available too.

Government announces Same Roof victims can re-apply for compensation

See government press release here. Congratulations everyone who campaigned for this change – what a wonderful if very belated victory for grassroots claimants /campaigners! It seems that the government has decided not to make people wait for the end of their Review of the Compensation Scheme after all. That’s good as the uncertainty has been terribly traumatic.

WAR addressing Baker’s Union annual conference 2019

The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union has been working with WAR on an inspirational campaign to stop sexual harassment in the workplace. They invited Lisa to speak at their annual conference in Southport on 10 June 2019, about the campaign. Watch the film here on You Tube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_50u7Ay-3I

After the speech there was a standing ovation. The BFAWU represent workers in fast food and hospitality industries and is a leading campaign taking strike actions against precarious contracts and low pay. We know that benefit cuts and poverty wages make women and girls more vulnerable to sexual violence, including abuse of power by employers. Read more about their amazing campaigns and strikes at https://www.bfawu.org/blog and https://www.bfawu.org/

Petition vs sexual harassment at McDonalds

https://www.megaphone.org.uk/petitions/mcdonald-s-end-harassment-in-your-stores

This is an important petition taking off, part of the Bakers Union campaign which WAR has been helping with. It’s an international campaign to protest how women in fast food and hospitality are suffering harassment with no recourse from the company. Please sign and circulate. Nobody should have to suffer this when they go to work – it’s not part of anyone’s job description!

Re: Government Review into domestic abuse and family courts

Paul Maynard MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary (Ministry of Justice)
c/o office@paulmaynard.co.uk

28 May 2019

Dear Paul Maynard,

We write regarding the government review on “how the family courts protect children and parents in cases of domestic abuse and other serious offences” called in response to the investigation by Victoria Derbyshire and the letter from over 120 MPs. We welcome this about-turn following the Prime Minister’s initial refusal during PMQ. 

For this review to be effective it must take evidence from mothers, children and family members with direct experience of domestic violence and those organisations supporting and/or campaigning with DV survivors.  The Panel conducting it should include grassroots organisations which have a long track record and much experience of working in this area, such as our own; it should not be dominated by ‘experts’ intent on proving that the issue is ‘complicated’ or needs further ‘research’ which would have the effect of delaying change and maintaining the status quo.    

As you will know, mothers interviewed by Victoria Derbyshire spoke bravely and articulately: from Clare Throssell describing the murder of her children by their father during unsupervised contact ordered by the courts, to the woman who said that ‘the family court abused me way more than my ex ever did’ – and he was a repeated rapist!  For years mothers and their supporters have been raising the alarm, risking their lives and their liberty.  Some have been jailed for refusing to be silenced and to hand over their children to violent men; others have gathered almost 200,000 signatures petitioning for change.

As anti-rape/DV organizations, which are members of the Support not Separation Coalition of (mainly women’s) organisations and concerned individuals, we confront such injustices all the time.  We have been raising them in Parliament, where we launched the dossier Suffer the Little Children and their Mothers (January 2017) documenting many cases of rape and DV where children were forced into contact or given residence to violent fathers.  In September 2018, SnS’s seminar in Parliament, Do No Harm, heard evidence from a distinguished panel of speakers who highlighted the trauma inflicted by the family court process on children and their mothers.

We know from our casework that rape and DV are not being treated as crimes of violence.  All the evidence is there.  Official figures show that 70-90% of cases in the family court involve domestic violence/abuse, yet only 1% of contact applications are refused altogether.[1]  

We attend SnS’s monthly self-help meetings at the Crossroads Women’s Centre where we are based. Through great collective effort we are enabling some mothers to keep their children and others to win them back, giving hope to all who come to us.

For years organisations of men who deny domestic violence have been allowed to set the agenda, and have had the support of many judges and of CAFCASS – the very service whose job it is to ensure the welfare of children.  On 14 October 2017 CAFCASS was advertised by Families Need Fathers as the keynote speaker of its conference on ‘parental alienation’.  CAFCASS has accepted and promoted ‘parental alienation’, the discredited theory of Dr Richard A Gardner,[2] a US misogynist psychiatrist who dismissed domestic violence, defended paedophilia, and argued that children who objected to seeing violent fathers should be forced to have contact.  Soon after he gave ‘expert’ evidence in a family case where the children were forced to have contact with their father, one of the two teenage sons committed suicide.  

Organisations of DV deniers should not be part of this review.  Their purpose is not the welfare of children and their primary carer and protector, almost always the mother, but the imposition of the patriarchal order with the violent father in charge. 

The remit of the review is too narrow.  It should include the following glaring injustices.

  1. Mothers who report rape or DV are not only disbelieved and their children forced into contact, they risk losing their children altogether as the family court may give residence to the father despite evidence of his violence, or blame the mother for ‘parental alienation’ which they claim without grounds, then say it may cause ‘emotional harm’ and take the children into care.  Research published in 2017 in the US where mothers are facing similar injustices, found that the family courts only believe a mother’s claim of a child’s sexual abuse 1 out of 51 times (2%) and lose custody more than half the time (56%) when ‘parental alienation’ is mentioned!  This is the most scandalous attack on women and children by violent men through the use of a state institution.
  2. The court’s bias against women is compounded by discrimination based on disability, race, nationality, age and of course income.  Mothers are generally on lower incomes than fathers, including because we do much more unwaged caring work for children and others.  Our economic disadvantage and/or poverty are at the heart of the sexism with which women are treated.  Most of the women who come to us for help are single mums, many are women of colour, immigrant, have a disability, a mental health issue or a learning difficulty, or have a child with a disability, or were in care themselves and are assumed to be ‘unfit’ because of the traumatic experiences they suffered.
  3. Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 which should provide support for mothers and children to stay together, and additional support for disabled mothers under the Care Act 2014 are not being implemented.  Instead millions are being spent taking children into care and profiteering by an increasingly privatised ‘child protection’ industry.  The cruel and dangerous treatment of children by the family courts is being replicated by institutions across the board, especially against disabled children. 
  4. The reason children who have not been harmed can be removed from their mothers, and thus subjected to the harm and trauma of separation, is that their relationship with their primary carer and protector, their mother, is devalued and even disregarded.  There is an assumption that mothers are dispensable so that in taking the child there is no loss despite the bond of love between them.  This attitude makes it possible to assert that any father, even a violent one, or even a ‘corporate parent’, is ‘good enough’ to replace the mother.  A court in New York (2004, Nicholson v Williams) after hearing evidence from reputable trauma experts concluded that taking children from their mother causes more trauma to the child than witnessing DV.  It is time the UK courts acknowledged that.  Princes William and Harry have spoken of their unbearable pain as children when their mother died – children go through similar pain when they are wrenched from their mother by family court decisions.
  5. The biased conduct of ‘fact finding’ hearings by judges would not be tolerated in criminal courts.  It has been hidden by the secrecy of the family courts which prevents public scrutiny.
  6. Controversial algorithms to be used for ‘child protection’ are being developed.  This threatens to automate inequality, which a number of professionals and IT experts are beginning to raise.  SnS’s open letter spells out the reasons for our grave concerns.

We look forward to your reply about the issues we raise.  We are very anxious to let women in our network know how they can contribute their experiences to the review. It is urgent that this information as well as the names and qualifications of those who will be on the Panel conducting the review are made public. 

Cristel Amiss, Black Women’s Rape Action Project bwrap@rapeaction.net
Lisa Longstaff, Women Against Rape war@womenagainstrape.net
on behalf of the Support not Separation Coalition, Crossroads Women’s Centre, 25 Wolsey Mews, London NW5 2DX

cc Shadow Policing Minister, Louise Haigh MP


[1] All-Party Parliamentary Group on Domestic Violence Parliamentary Briefing, April 2016

[2] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/dr-richard-a-gardner-36582.html

Letter on arrest of Julian Assange

Dear Editor (unpublished)

Whether or not Assange is guilty of a sexual offence, it is shocking that 70+ MPs calling for his extradition to Sweden in the name of justice refuse to take position on his possible extradition to the US and the torture and even death he may face there. (Give priority to Julian Assange rape claim, home secretary urged, 13 April 2019)

We agree with Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott: Assange’s current detention is not about “the rape charges, serious as they are, it is about WikiLeaks and all of that embarrassing information about the activities of the American military and security services that was made public.” And so it was from the beginning.

Chelsea Manning (currently re-in prison despite President Obama’s pardon) 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?

At the time of the original allegations against Assange, we pointed to the unusual zeal with which he was being pursued. (Guardian 19 Dec 2010 and 23 August 2012) The UK low conviction rate – 6% of reported rapes, and falling – resulting largely from negligent and biased investigations, speaks volumes about how rape is generally downgraded.

The MPs letter claims that Sweden dropped their investigation because of Assange’s ‘unavailability’. Untrue. We and others urged the Swedish authorities to question him at the Ecuadorian embassy so his accusers would not be denied the investigation they were entitled to and justice could be done. They refused until December 2015 when they finally did. They then dropped the case. No charge was ever made. [But Sweden recently reopened the investigation.]

Where is the letter 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 Rape Action Project, we wrote to women MPs about the war crimes and torture, including rape, that were being committed in Iraq and Afghanistan. We received no reply.

[Since this letter was submitted to The Guardian, the US government has initiated extradition proceedings against Assange.]

Yours sincerely,

Lisa Longstaff, Women Against Rape

Universal Credit split payments given to only 20 claimants

DWP ignoring the needs of vulnerable claimants at risk of domestic abuse, says SNP.
Posted By Steven Preece

This article appeared at https://welfareweekly.com/universal-credit-split-payments-given-to-only-20-claimants/?fbclid=IwAR0gEzakL4W4ab3LLltYC90D7bBjKTQrS0wND_EZeFe-qARP2cBtJmm0d0I

March 17, 2019

The UK government has been urged to make split payments the default for Universal Credit, after figures showed the DWP system of split payments on request is severely limited, and could leave vulnerable people open to domestic abuse and financial control by abusive partners.
Figures have revealed that just 20 claimants were in receipt of split payments across the UK – despite almost 1.3 million claimants of Universal Credit, including 120,000 in Scotland.
Not one person in Scotland received a split payment of Universal Credit last year.
The DWP currently pays Universal Credit for couples into a single bank account, and current guidance stipulates that split payments are only available in very exceptional circumstances, despite domestic abuse being a common occurrence.
Women’s groups argue that the current system could isolate victims and make it financially difficult to leave abusive relationships, with 85% of domestic abuse survivors agreeing that a request for split payments could trigger more abuse, according to a report from Women’s Aid.
The Scottish Government has committed to introducing split payments but as Universal Credit is entirely reserved, needs the agreement of the DWP.
Shona Robison MSP said: “Financial abuse affects one in five women and the current system, of paying Universal Credit into one bank account per household, can make it easier for perpetrators of domestic and financial abuse to exert control over their victims and further endanger partners at risk.
“The concerning fact that just 20 claimants had Universal Credit paid into separate bank accounts last year – and shockingly, none in Scotland – simply shows the severe limitations of the system of split payments on request.
“It is yet another example that Universal Credit is deeply flawed system.
“It is unacceptable for the UK government to side-line this issue. With Tory welfare policy forcing people to food banks, reducing household finances and leading to increases in child poverty, something must change.
“With over 3 million people expected to migrate to Universal Credit over the coming years, it is vital that split payments become the default position.
“This will not only prevent abuse of vulnerable claimants, but will ensure that universal credit correctly reflects modern working life and gender equality principles.”
Disclaimer: This is a press release from the Scottish National Party (SNP).

To Woman’s Hour: parental alienation interview, 26 April 2019

30 April 2019
Dear Woman’s Hour
We object in the strongest possible terms to Woman’s Hour’s sexist broadcast on 26 April about ‘parental alienation’.
Woman’s Hour’s website says it is ‘the programme that offers a female perspective of the world’. This interview offered the perspective of a men’s organisation which attacks women, represented by two female professionals – a lawyer and a psychotherapist.
‘Parental alienation’ is the discredited theory of Dr Richard A. Gardner, an American misogynist psychiatrist who dismissed domestic violence as lies, defended paedophilia, and argued that children who objected to seeing violent fathers should be forced to have contact anyway. Soon after a family case where he gave such ‘expert’ evidence, one of the two teenage sons forced to visit his dad committed suicide.
(See https://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/dr-richard-a-gardner-36582.html)
As organisations that have worked with victims of rape and domestic violence for decades, we are horrified that a programme for women would promote such views. Jenni Murray didn’t pursue them on the facts that rape and domestic violence are a key issue in many marriage break-ups, that two women a week are murdered by partners or ex-partners (often despite multiple calls to police for help), or that over 50% of rapes reported to the Met Police are committed by a partner.
We are sickened by seeing violent men repeatedly attack their partners with impunity while women are denied help, protection and resources to escape. And if they manage to escape, they are often pursued by their violent ex through the family courts, and men take the children as the ultimate act of punishment and control.
Working on family law cases for several years, we’ve have seen how ‘parental alienation’ is increasingly invoked by aggrieved fathers who suddenly became interested in their children when their wives left them.
We have witnessed domestic violence repeatedly dismissed by judges (men and women) in ways that are blatantly sexist. Judges could no longer express such views in the criminal courts. Family courts operate in secret and so escape the discipline of public scrutiny, and this has protected them from having to change in response to women’s pressure to take men’s sexual and domestic violence as the violent crimes they are.
A single judge makes a factual ruling on whether or not they believe you suffered violence, and if they choose not to believe you, as they often do, they can take your children and forbid your raising the violence again under threat of cutting all contact with your children.
We see mothers’ efforts to protect their children from a violent father dismissed as ‘parental alienation’ even when the man has a criminal record for violence. Family courts assume contact with any father is better than no contact and often ignore or breech protective measures laid down by other courts or by the police who advise no contact for safety’s sake. At least 19 children have been murdered by fathers as a result (Women’s Aid).
The overwhelming majority of mothers who come to us because their children have been or are at risk of being taken by Social Services, are women of colour escaping rape and domestic violence (including asylum seekers).
Family courts remove children from their mother who is blamed for causing the child ‘emotional harm’ by witnessing domestic violence, while the father who committed the violence is considered a good enough parent to get residence. Now they are using ‘parental alienation’ as a pretext to give him the children – ’parental alienation’ is considered abuse from the mother, while domestic violence is not abuse from the father.
Is Woman’s Hour not aware of the public campaign by Rotherham rape survivor Sammy Woodhouse just before Xmas whose convicted rapist-torturer was invited (while in prison) to be a party to proceedings over their child born of rape when she was 15? This was not an isolated case, but part of a national pattern. There are hundreds if not thousands of mothers who are trying to defend their children from violent men, not only children born of rape.
Is Woman’s Hour not aware that there is a mass movement of mothers and children traumatised by unjust separation and forced into contact or residency with violent fathers?
These Woman’s Hour guests were invited onto the programme a day after a Families Need Fathers (FNF) march promoting ‘parental alienation’. Why is WH inviting guests who echo the FNF agenda that mothers are often hostile to fathers for spurious reasons, and that such hostility is abusive to the child?
FNF is a notoriously sexist men’s organisation hiding behind respectability as a charity. They campaign for fathers’ rights to trump mothers’ and children’s rights. As long ago as 1994, during a debate on the Child Support Agency, MP Glenda Jackson reported in Parliament that FNF advised fathers who were not allowed access to their children to ‘kidnap them. If that failed and nothing else could succeed, it advocated the murder of the mother.’
FNF dismiss domestic violence as false allegations. They claim that ‘False and unfounded allegations poison proceedings when a non-resident parent is seeking parenting time with his children. Judges need to make findings of fact as soon as possible and to take false allegations into account when determining the best interests of the child.’ FNF claim that ‘there is widespread abuse of men and boys in the context of the family courts’ and accuse women of ‘making allegations’ as ‘a motorway to obtaining legal aid’.
What on earth is Woman’s Hour doing airing this blatant misogyny? We must have the right to reply to such bias.
Yours sincerely,
Cristel Amiss, Lisa Longstaff,
Black Women’s Rape Action Project Women Against Rape
bwrap@rapeaction.net war@womenagainstrape.net

See other complaints to the programme from others at supportnotseparation.blog

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