Conservative MP John Redwood, a person I never heard of before, has a blog. It came to my attention because of a post I got by way of the Guardian UK’s RSS feed. The author, Marcel Berlins, accuses Mr. Redwood of trying to set the clock back 20 years in regards to sexual assault laws in the UK.
I just had to check this out. So I read his blog and I am quoting from it directly. For context the “They” he is using is the Labour Party:
A better class of criminal?
“They decided to set date rape alongside stranger rape. Again, none of us want men to rape women, but there is a difference between a man using unreasonable force to assault a woman on the street, and a disagreement between two lovers over whether there was consent on one particular occasion when the two were spending an evening or night together. Labour’s doctrine of equivalence has led to jury scepticism about many rape claims, in situations where it is the man’s word against the woman’s and where they had agreed to spend the evening or night together. Young men do not want to have to take a consent form and a lawyer on a date, just as young women have every right to go on a date and to say “No”, having it respected.”
I don’t typically see, or hear the words, “unreasonable force” when discussing sexual assault (I want to know what he means by that, but I digress), but over all I hear this kinda of argument on a regular basis. By regular, I mean between 4-5 pm Monday-Thursday when I run sex offender group. Its a fairy common thought among the kids I work with. In his comments, Mr. Redwood explicits tells the readers to, “Read the entry, I state that all women have the right to say no.” I don’t expect Mr. Redwood to care about my thoughts on the matter, however, that has never stopped me in the past.
Here are the facts regarding sexual assault. According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, 38% of all female victims of rape in the US are assaulted by an acquaintance. According the UK’s Home Office (warning PDF link) acquaintances make up 22% of all perpetrators of sexual assault (partners make up 32%). These numbers make it rather clear that in the US and the UK, victims of rape know their offender.
At best, Mr. Redwood (and by extension, most people who think his way) do not understand the nature of sexual assault. It is not committed by the stranger, lying in wait behind the bushes. It is committed by men who use their familiarity to take what they want. Sexual assault is not a disagreement between two lovers: It is one of the most heinous crimes imaginable, even when it is committed by a partner. This is the starting point for understanding sexual assault–an absolute assertion that all forms of sexual assault are inexcusable acts–not the idea that the majority of sexual assaults are disagreements between “lovers.”
Neither Labour’s doctrine of Equivalence nor Illinois redefined Criminal Code have not contributed to jurors’ skepticism of rape claims. A culture that has treated sex as taboo AND punishes victims for being raped has contributed to skepticism of rape claims. A culture that doesn’t bother to teach its children about sex, sexuality and how to treat each other creates skepticism of rape. Attitudes that dismiss the majority of rapes as being “misunderstandings” like Mr. Redwood’s, creates skepticism.