At 17, I became a feminist activist because I wanted to fight for a future where women feeling safe and heard were considered everyday norms.
I am 61 years old now and I fight harder for these fundamental rights, which remain hopelessly out of our reach.
The fact that even today – especially today – it is incredibly difficult for me to advise a woman who has been raped to report it to the police breaks my heart.
My younger self would be rightly appalled. But I know that unless a woman fits the profile of the perfect rape victim – sober when it happens, conservatively dressed and assaulted by a stranger; ideally, a masked marauder, who used extra violence and who is not going to stand in the dock looking handsome and plausible; and preferably with witnesses or CCTV footage to support their story – reporting it is then likely to lead to a situation which will only worsen their feelings of helplessness and despair.
Social media is currently awash with people spouting righteous indignation while insisting that the horrific allegations surrounding Russell Brand constitute a media trial.
Broken justice system: Russell Brand’s alleged victims waited many years to tell their story
“How horrible,” they say. “This poor man was denied the opportunity for a fair trial. What happened to the innocent until proven guilty?
They argue that if these women had been real victims, they would not have waited for others to begin speaking out before coming forward themselves.
Talk about missing the point. I wish they would have stopped for a second and thought about why the women who claim to have been raped, sexually assaulted and abused by Brand went to the press rather than the police in the first place.
Why, they might ask, is there so little faith in the justice system that is supposed to act as a deterrent to would-be rapists, to the point that speaking anonymously to a reporter is the only way these women can feel heard?
I will tell you why.
First, if a woman reports she has been raped to the police, there is only a 1% chance that the attacker will be charged, prosecuted and convicted of the crime.
That’s right; An astonishing 99 percent of reported rapes do not result in a conviction.
Even if the police believe the victim and also believe they have enough evidence to charge the attacker, this does not necessarily mean the case will go to court.
In the year to December 2021, 67,125 rape offenses were recorded – an unprecedented record.
Yet only five percent of them resulted in a charge.
But even if your attacker is charged, the Crown Prosecution Service is so results-driven that it only prosecutes cases where it knows there is a good chance of a conviction.
And one of the big problems with rape cases is that juries are notoriously reluctant to convict if a victim knew her attacker, which is the case in about 80 percent of assaults.
So, if she was raped by her boyfriend, her boss, a neighbor, or a man she went on a date with, she is unlikely to ever face trial.
Meanwhile, if the defendant is rich, famous, or handsome, someone a jury might have a hard time believing should force a woman to have sex — because, hey, it’s a trap – then the chances of him ever finding himself in the dock are slim.
Julie Bindel writes that the fact that even today it is incredibly difficult for her to advise a woman who has been raped to report it to the police breaks her heart.
The horrible false story that only weird men, too ugly or too strange to date, rape women and that they are a tiny minority, doesn’t help anyone.
Consider the statistics: one in four women in England and Wales have been sexually assaulted or raped.
This either means that very few men assault a lot of women, or that raping women is a choice made by many men and is much more about power than sex. We all know the answer to that.
Beyond the appearance of her attacker, if the woman did not arrive at the police station battered and bruised, where is the evidence showing she was forced?
Although, with extreme pornography which sees women regularly strangled, spat on and beaten during sex, signs of violence can and do be used by the defense as evidence that the victim was simply into rough sex. In other words, she asked for it.
Indeed, only recently have we gotten rid of the “rough sex” argument that men used in their trials after women died.
“Due process” in these cases is nothing like what those who criticize “the court of public opinion” want to believe.
I’ve campaigned alongside and written about women who reported their rich or famous rapist either to their boss or to the police, and ended up being threatened with prosecution – and sometimes even prosecuted for – defamation. .
There is also another reason why women do not turn to the police after being assaulted: it is because some commit the rapes themselves.
Following the convictions of serial rapist David Carrick and murderer Wayne Couzens, the Metropolitan Police – one of the UK’s 43 police forces – currently has around 450 real cases under investigation following a review of 1,600 cases in which police officers faced allegations of domestic or sexual violence. violence over the past ten years, but no action has been taken.
Finally, let’s say that you are one of the “lucky” few whose attacker ends up on trial.
What an ordeal this can be, with the risk of being re-traumatized as your abuser and their legal team do everything they can to prove that you weren’t raped at all.
In addition to waiting up to two years for the case to go to trial, the experience itself is horrific, with the victim having to face their attacker, even from behind a screen, and being watched by jury members.
There are supposed to be restrictions on the extent to which a woman’s sexual history can be raised in court, but it is always suggested that she “asked for it”.
The cross-examinations conducted by her rapist’s lawyer are often brutal and devastating.
So no, oddly enough, women don’t tend to come away from rape thinking, “I need to make sure the man who just raped me gets due process.”
Most stagger home, take a hot shower and pray that one day they can forget what just happened to them.
Controversial comedian Russell Brand is facing a number of rape and sexual assault allegations.
Only a large number of victims never recover. The psychological damage done to a woman who has been raped can be so severe that she turns to alcohol and drugs to try to erase her emotional pain.
For some, this means they are living a far lesser life than they could have had. For others, it can lead to behavior that puts them on the wrong side of the law.
Indeed, as a rape victim, you are more likely to end up with a criminal record – or even in prison – than your attacker.
This is how bad things are. I feel like rape has actually been decriminalized.
Like most people, I am absolutely against media trials. And I’m not saying that Brand is guilty of the things he’s accused of. I have no idea. But it’s not about that.
These are women who trusted journalists and newspaper lawyers, who listened to what these victims had to say, combed the evidence for flaws, and then – believing it to be legally sound – published these inflammatory claims.
This is why more women will likely come forward. Because the media does the work of the justice system – which should be to the great and eternal shame of the justice system.