The fabric of Britain as we know it is being ripped apart. So much is changing, almost behind our backs, we haven't got time to notice what is happening to us. And it is happening fast.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

We Believe You: Mumsnet Campaign on Sexual Violence

We Believe You is a new campaign being spearheaded by Mumsnet which, simply, is about believing victims of rape and other forms of sexual violence and challenging destructive rape myths. We live in a culture whose default position is to immediately raise the issue of women who lie about rape even though false reporting of rape is generally less than false reporting of most other crimes. 

The statistics on rape in the UK, as outlined by Kat Banyard in The Equality Illusion: The Truth about Women and Men Today, are distressing: 
  • Around 100 000 women a year will be raped in the UK.
  • Fewer than 17% of rapes are perpetrated by strangers.
  • 13% of rapes take place in public spaces. 
  • 2/3 of women who are raped will develop post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Women raped by their intimate partner are 10 times more likely to be subjected to multiple sexual assaults.  
This works out to one women being raped every 6 minutes in the UK; over a third of these women will go on to be raped again during the following 12 months.

2009 British Government Survey on Rape found that: 
  • 43% of people think a woman should be held (partly) responsible for their rape if they had been flirting with the man 
  • 42% believe that women should be held (partly) responsible for their rape if they had been taking drugs 
  • 36% believe that women should be held (partly) responsible for their rape if they had been drunk 
  •  26% believe that women should be held (partly) responsible for their rape if they were wearing sexy or revealing clothes. 
These statistics alone are terrifying enough but the financial cost of rape and sexual violence in society is immense. We don't factor the financial cost of rape and sexual violence into general discourse but the the base cost is huge in terms of healthcare. Rape and sexual violence can cause physical injuries, unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. The lasting effects in terms of mental health are equally expensive as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, panic attacks, depression, social phobia, substance abuse, obesity, eating disorders, self harm and suicide. According to Rape Crisis, "the overall cost to society of sexual offences in 2003-04 was estimated at £8.5 billion, with each rape costing over £76,000. Much of this cost is made up of lost output and costs to the health service resulting from long term health issues faced by victims." 

Current cuts to frontline services in the NHS and funding grants available to charities that work with victims means that many more women will not get the support they need. The long-term consequences for women's health is incalculable yet the ConDems are continuing to push through short-sighting cuts to frontline services that put more women, children and men at risk of sexual violence. 

The Mumsnet Campaign won't take into account these financial costs. Instead, it is focussing on the human cost; a cost that continues to be ignored in the destruction of the NHS and our welfare state.

Twitter hashtags: #WeBelieveYou and #WeVote 

Mumsnet Survey on Rape and Sexual Violence

Rape Crisis England and Wales  
  • Freephone: 0808 802 9999 
  • 12-2:30 pm and 7-9:30 pm. 
Find a rape crisis centre near you in England and Wales

Rape Crisis Scotland:  
  • Every day 6pm – 8pm
  •  08088 010302 
Current legal definition of rape: The Sexual Offences Act 2003 (the Act) came into force on the 1st May 2004. The purpose of the Act was to strengthen and modernise the law on sexual offences, whilst improving preventative measures and the protection of individuals from sexual offenders. The Act extends the definition of rape to include the penetration by a penis of the vagina, anus or mouth of another person. 

The 2003 Act also changes the law about consent and belief in consent. The word "consent" in the context of the offence of rape is now defined in the Sexual Offences Act 2003. 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. The law does not require the victim to have resisted physically in order to prove a lack of consent. The question of whether the victim consented is a matter for the jury to decide, although the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) considers this issue very carefully throughout the life of the case. 

What is sexual (indecent) assault? Sexual assault is an act of physical, psychological and emotional violation, in the form of a sexual act, which is inflicted on someone without consent. It can involve forcing or manipulating someone to witness or participate in any sexual acts, apart from penetration of the mouth with the penis, the penetration of anus or vagina (however slight) with any object or the penis, which is rape. 

Further Information:

Guardian: Women's Groups Struggle Among Funding Cuts

Touchstone Blog: Cuts to women's Domestic Violence Services

Cuts Watch 390: 100% Funding cut to Liverpool's Rape Crisis Centres

Women's Views on the News: Funding Cuts to Glasgow's Rape Crisis Centres

End Violence Against Women

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