Rape is the most earth-shattering form of abuse known to humanity, yet of every thousand rapes, 994 perpetrators will walk free.
A person is raped every two minutes in America. In other words, by the time you finish watching this video, another man woman or child has been sexually abused in the most abhorrent and inhumane manner.
It’s widely felt that our global judicial systems fail victims of rape, time and time again. According to research conducted by UN Women, less than ten per cent of women seeking help after suffering at the hands of sexual violence went to the police.
When Rape Crisis statistics show that only 5.7 per cent of reported rape cases end in a conviction, for many victims, appealing to the courts for justice seems like a futile, painful, time-consuming and costly pursuit.
Hearing the UN’s call to #OrangeTheWorld during their 16 days of declared activism against Gender-Based Violence, one British writer has chosen to act in the face of injustice.
J.S. von Dacre has taken matters into her own hands and initiated a petition for the attention of
The petition calls upon the most powerful governments in the world to put a stop to long delays in the criminal justice process and implement specialist pre-trial guidance for legal teams, judges and jurors.
Just over a year ago, von Dacre learnt that a charity for male victims of sexual abuse had funding cut by the government. Feeling this was an intolerably cruel injustice, von Dacre began campaigning for the judicial rights of rape victims. Along the way she met many individuals dealing with the mental and emotional scars left by their rapists.
Speaking exclusively to UNILAD, von Dacre explained how the court system can actually add to these strains:
Imagine someone who survived a serious accident and sustained horrific injuries. Now imagine forcing that person to sit in the same wreckage again and again. And each time they climbed back into the wreckage, the dented metal re-opened old wounds.
Being raped destroys a person mentally and emotionally. Most experience insomnia or sleep riddled with nightmares. They suffer from crippling anxiety, fear, flashbacks, depression, and some contemplate suicide. Yet, they are forced to repeatedly retell and relive the trauma, sometimes, over prolonged periods in such a public forum.
It can also be extremely challenging for victims to recollect every single detail as precisely after such a substantial time. This can work in favour of the accused.
I have even spoken to victims who didn’t report the case because their doctor or social worker advised them against it. It was felt that the victim would be unable to cope with the mental or emotional anguish of court.
Offering an alternative, von Dacre continued: “A system that minimises long delays will ensure that victims receive better rehabilitation and a better chance for justice.”
Here in the UK much of the confusion surrounding rape trials is the issue of consent, which is decided in a Crown Court trial by jury.
The Sexual Offences Act of 2003 and the Crown Prosecution Service define consent as:
A person consents if he or she agrees by choice, and has the freedom and capacity to make that choice. The essence of this definition is the agreement by choice.
It’s clear the discursive frame around rape trials needs readjusting, in order to make the judicial system an altogether safer space for those victimised by sexual violence.
von Dacre is also petitioning for jurors and judges to be given training to eliminate the culture of victim-blaming.
Prosecutors, judges and police officers should be given better guidance. Recent cases show how much victim blaming still exists; Canadian Judge Robin Camp even asked a rape victim, “Why couldn’t you just keep your knees together?”
More worrying is that the jury does not receive rape guidance (albeit a few sparse words from the judge).
It is essential that the correct rape awareness training is given to dispel myths and stereotypes, especially to the jurors, before the trial commences. As it stands, there is a hesitance for victims to report crime and an even greater hesitance for jurors to convict.
Promoting fairer trials for victims mean they will have more faith to come forward to make reports.
Undoubtedly, the judicial system must change, adapt and progress to adhere to right-thinking societal attitudes.
When victims feel ashamed, traumatised or afraid that they would not be believed, the courts should be able to cope with the sensitivity of the situation.
It is not right that victims are made to feel like they are on trial.