Authorities must stop treating sexual abuse charges with ‘caution’

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When someone is murdered, an investigation is launched. When a victim is paralyzed when mugged at gun point, no one asks why they didn’t scream or says they asked for it. When someone is robbed, the judge doesn’t tell the victims they should have shouted in protest against the violation of their home to prove that it was done against their will.

But somehow the conduct for sexual abuse victims does not make as much sense as that. They are not met with open ears and investigators ready to find the guilty party – they are met with wariness, defiance and inclinations for a cover up.

This week, Fleet Street Fox wrote about the Jimmy Savile scandal. She numbered how many people tried to come forward with charges against Savile and how many were told to be quiet, shamed for telling the truth and forced to see their attacker roam free after their pain was covered up. Since allegations against Savile finally broke, around 600 people came forward to report abuse by him.

It’s horrifying, but easily dismissed by many. ‘In those times’ it was different, sexual abuse wasn’t taken as seriously as it is today.

Though it would be wonderful to believe that we live in a world where rapists are punished, sexual abuse isn’t covered up and victims aren’t blamed for what happened to them, the truth is that in the decades of the Savile crimes (from the 1960s to the mid-2000s), absolutely nothing has changed. And this is why he was allowed to operate without being punished until the day he died.

Let’s go through some statistics.

The New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) reports that rapists have a 24% rate of re-offense, child molesters targeting girls 16%, and child molesters targeting boys, 35%. During his lifetime, a child abuser will have around 400 victims.

The NSPCC says nearly a quarter of young adults experienced sexual abuse during childhood and that there were 17,727 sexual crimes against children under 16 recorded in England and Wales in 2010 and 2011. That’s 32% of 54,982 sexual crimes recorded in England and Wales in the same period.

Jimmy Savile is a tiny part of a much bigger problem. These statistics are easily accessible and their horrifying numbers are quite blatantly proof that the victims, adult or child, are not lying about being abused. If so many cases of abuse are reported every year, why is it so difficult to believe a victim? Why are these cases approached with such heed?

Keir Starmer QC has (thankfully) published a study on this very subject proving that during 17 months of studied cases, only a few consisted of false allegations. He even added that there is a “misplaced belief” that bogus allegations of rape and domestic abuse happen all the time and the police tend to have an “over-cautious” approach because of this belief.

In reality, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) concluded that there were 5,651 prosecutions for rape and 111,891 for domestic violence in England and Wales in 2011 and 2012, of which only 44 were false.

Though this is all well and good for progress, and maybe for future where rape allegations are taken seriously, where is the justice for all the people that were already abused and ignored? Where is the punishment for all the rape and abuse that was ignored?

Starmer’s study is a great step forward, but it’s not the big blow authorities need. Though his findings are strong and 100% certifiable, he says the police have ‘understandable’ concerns when it comes to this kind of report – because after all, false allegations can ruin a person’s reputation.

Well, yes, that is very true – for all crimes. Murder, robbery, fraud – all of these allegations could ruin a person’s reputation. So why are sexual crimes allegations specifically treated in such a way that favors the suspects so much that the victims end up looking like the guilty party? Why aren’t other crimes treated like this?

Hopefully this study will change the way these crimes are treated by authorities. I’m not holding my breath though.

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Photo by Downing Street / Flickr Creative Commons License.

Links that will make you angry:
Gross 71-Year-Old thinks 14-Year-Old is Sexy (Jezebel)
Rape victim Sara Reedy, accused of lying and jailed by U.S. police, wins $1.5 million payout (Sott.net)
Marital Rape in India (Business Line)

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