Is the revised content on ‘rape myths and stereotypes’ accurate and comprehensive and do you think it will assist prosecutors in making decisions which are not clouded by myths or stereotypes?
(In our response, what the CPS has written is in this font. We have tried to keep our responses in line with the CPS headings where we possible)
Silence does not amount to consent
‘The Court of Appeal has repeatedly stated that there is no evidential obligation for a victim to have said or done anything in order for a guilty verdict to be returned. Judges provide standard directions to the effect that juries are to set aside any stereotypical assumptions about how victims and assailants act and react.’
This is a confusing way of wording it – it almost seems like the onus is being put on the complainant to say something to stop it. Which is not true. The wording does not actually address or confirm the fact in plain English that ‘even if the complainant remained silent or put up no resistance to the sexual activity this does not equal consent
A lot of the information on ‘other’ rape myths (e.g. what a person was wearing) is in linked documents. This is okay, but there is a tendency to lose things within documents. This should have its own listing under this section on the guidance so that it can be found and referred to more easily. It would be useful to have a basic outline of myths and stereotypes in written out in your main document. This is taken from one of your linked documents.
Addressing myths and stereotypes:
- The form of dress a person wears does not mean they should expect to be raped.
- The majority of rape cases are where the offender and complainant know each other.
- Trauma can affect memory and create inconsistency.
- Being drunk makes the complainant vulnerable. It does not mean they were ‘asking for it’;
- Most victims do not fight; resistance and self-protection/defence can be through dissociation, freezing or trying to befriend the defendant – in fact any effort to prevent, stop or limit the event. It does not have to succeed to be an ‘effort’.
- Late reporting may be due to inability to cope with the trauma of the incident, fear of repercussions, maturity with age recognising the abuse, control of the complainant, fear of going to court.
- In cases of adult survivors of child abuse the complainant may regress and behave or speak as a child.
Photographs and communication data is carefully analysed in the context of a rape allegation
A lot of this section is good. However, We think you ought to also mention that, during a period where the complainant is trying to understand what happened, keep things safe or normal, or even explain it away (particularly in cases where the complainant is in a relationship with the accused) they may outwardly still show aspects of still being loving, affectionate or caring towards their attacker. There is probably a statistic or something you could use here to demonstrate this. You have done this better in your section on things on different groups of people relating in particular to the DV section – you could include a sentence of that here.
An acquittal does not automatically mean there was a false allegation
The wording here feeds into rape myths. It should read ‘An acquittal does not mean there was a false allegation.’ By using including the word ‘automatically’ this suggests that there could be. Who is on trial here? The decision that a jury finds a person ‘not guilty’ does not mean that the complainant was lying, it just means that the jury couldn’t find enough to convict against all reasonable double. You wouldn’t put the title with the word ‘automatically’ ahead of a person being acquitted in a murder trial – a person has been murdered. If it is believed that a complainant has been raped and that is enough to get the case to court, then the question of a false allegation and words such as ‘automatically’ which suggest this to be the case do not belong here or in this context.
Victims react in many different ways to a sexual assault
The main reactions be listed here for the benefit of the reader.
It may take time for a rape victim to come forward and report
The trauma of rape can cause feelings of shame and guilt which might inhibit a victim from making a complaint. This fact was recognised by the Court of Appeal in [R v D (JA) October 24 2008] where it was held that judges are entitled to direct juries that due to shame and shock, victims of rape might not complain for some time, and that a late complaint does not necessarily mean that it is a false complaint.
The use of the word ‘necessarily’ feeds into rape myths as it suggests that a late complaint could mean that it is false and it raising unfair questions about the complainant. It should read ‘a late complaint does not mean that it is a false complaint.
The CPS treats female and male victims of sexual violence equally
We are committed to securing justice for all victims. All our VAWG policies are applied fairly and equitably to all perpetrators and victims of crime – irrespective of their gender. In 2019-20 there were 2,249 female victims of rape, 415 male victims and the gender was not recorded for 517 victims. In recognition that male victims may not come forward to report rape and other VAWG crimes, CPS published a public statement on support for male victims in September 2017.
By listing this section after the paragraph about Volume of Violence against Women and Girls cases you are suggesting in your layout that VAWG is seen as the main issue, ahead of acknowledging that this also happens to men. The general statement on treating female and male victims equally should come ahead of the separate gender issue that is VAWG. Also you need to list LGBTQIA here as well and link to your statement and information for these survivors. By not giving them a mention here you are again going against equality.
You also need to include in this section about acknowledging that the violence, myths and stereotypes perpetrated against survivors of different genders varies and that the CPS is aware and responsive to these.
There needs to be a section on complainants with disabilities.
Where is the information for complainants who are from BAME communities or have strong faith beliefs? What about FGM, forced marriage and the crossover with sexual violence here?
CPS Complainant Data
In the complainant data you list details around the complainants age and gender. In the defendant’s data you list details around the complainants age and gender and ethnicity. Why does the defendant’s ethnicity matter but not the complainants? You are leaving yourselves open to accusations of institutional racism. We recommend providing the same data sets for both complainants and defendants or providing a very good reason why you have not done so.