Foregrounding the object redux: rape research from the UK

A while back, I wrote about the effects of the passive voice and agent deletion in media reporting of sexual violence, in Passive Aggression: Foregrounding the Object.

An article in the UK Telegraph hit me between the eyes today: Four out of 10 rape victims intoxicated.

Nearly four out of 10 female rape victims had been drinking before the assault, Home Office research revealed yesterday.
[…]
Alcohol appeared to be most significant in assaults by strangers.
[…]
The overall conviction rate for rape among a total of 676 cases across the eight areas was six per cent – the same as the figure for England and Wales.

Some police forces were more successful at reducing the likelihood that a victim would withdraw their complaint, the research found.

I thought I’d have a go at re-activising it:

“Forty percent of rapists target women and girls who have been drinking before they sexually assault them, Home Office research revealed yesterday.
[…]
Men who raped women and girls they didn’t know were particularly likely to rape drunk victims.
[…]
Some police forces were more successful at increasing the likelihood that a victim would withdraw her complaint, the research found.”

Does it have a different effect, to you?


And in case you were thinking that men don’t actively victim-blame in the media nowadays, the execrable Daily Mail published this story by misogynistic rape apologist James Slack. Prepare your barf bag.

The findings are the latest evidence to suggest there could be a link between binge-drinking and claims of sexual assault.
[…]
Only 6 per cent of cases ended in a conviction for rape, and a further 7 per cent for lesser sexual offences. Police “no crimed” 15 per cent of cases – meaning officers decided they could not proceed and did not record the allegation as a crime. This was usually after the victim withdrew her complaint or because police felt she lacked credibility due to inconsistencies in her story or factors such as alcohol consumption.

A further 8 per cent were found to be false allegations, while 39 per cent of cases which police went on to investigate collapsed because the woman withdrew her support for the prosecution. The most common reasons women gave for this were that they did not want to appear in court or wanted to “move on”.
[…]
Even though women were most likely to be raped on the weekend, most complaints were made on a Tuesday.
[…]
Under plans published last month, ministers want judges to give firmer guidance to juries in cases where the woman has been drinking. If a woman is deemed to have consumed so much alcohol that she is incapable of agreeing to have sex, the man would be far more likely to be convicted of rape. The plan could open the way for the prosecution of thousands of men for having sex with drunk women – regardless of whether agreement had been given at the time.



Categories: gender & feminism, language, violence

Tags: , , , ,

5 replies

  1. The UK Telegraph article is subtle and sneaky in its victim blaming, which caused me to mutter and grumble. James Slack’s victim blaming just made me want to scream louder and louder with every line.
    While I personally feel gutted each time I read your posts on this topic I totally admire you for not letting these injustices go unnoticed.

  2. Fantastic example.

  3. Much more powerful the second way. Much. But I’m puzzled over one thing:
    Before: “Some police forces were more successful at reducing the likelihood that a victim would withdraw their complaint, the research found.”
    After: “Some police forces were more successful at increasing the likelihood that a victim would withdraw her complaint, the research found.”
    This looks like a simple substitution of “increasing” for “reducing” and a change from the grammatically incorrect “their” to the better “her.” That changes the meaning 180 degrees, but I’m not sure how it reactivizes it.
    Isn’t it good that some police forces are more successful at reducing the likelihood that victims withdraw their complaints?
    Or is there more to the “their/her” switch that I’m just not getting?

  4. Vicki: quite right, I need to reword that rewording.
    What I’m trying to get at is that the research found that some police forces were hostile to women, bullying them into withdrawing their complaints.
    This is a conscious re-activisation: the default situation isn’t “lots of women withdraw their complaints for no particular reason, and some forces helped them not do that”. It’s trying to make the point that police forces and the legal system tend to be actively hostile to raped women. But I am lurgified, and expressing it badly. Perhaps someone can help.
    The change to “her” wasn’t for reasons of grammar – I have no problem with the unisex “they” – it was because the research is specifically talking about man-on-woman gendered sexual violence. I think that de-gendering the pronouns isn’t particularly useful when talking about specifically gendered violence, it obscures the situation.

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