The demand for sexual offence suspects to be granted anonymity appears in the press and within public discourse with depressing regularity.
To support such a move is to prioritise the interests of a small group of men over those of one of the most vulnerable groups of all – rape complainers.
With statistics in Scotland for 2017/18 showing that
there were 2,255 rapes and attempted rapes reported to the police, but only 107
convictions, the last thing that is needed is something that
will make this worse – and proposing anonymity for those accused of rape is a
retrograde step which promises to do exactly that.
Reporting rape, and going through the criminal justice process, can be an extremely difficult experience. Taking the decision to speak out about what has happened, and to seek justice, is far from automatic. According to the latest Scottish Crime & Justice Survey less than ¼ of people who had experienced it report their most recent rape as an adult. Fear of being blamed, judged, disbelieved and of the court process itself are among many barriers survivors face when they’re considering reporting.
There is no reason why those accused of rape should be singled out for anonymity – proposing that they should seems to suggest that rape victims are more likely to be making false allegations than victims of other crimes, which research tells us is not the case. The push to grant anonymity is also an attack on the credibility of rape complainers – a contemporary spin on the damaging suggestion that women ‘cry rape’ and are not to be trusted.
It was with surprise and dismay that we heard that one of the first initiatives pursued by the new coalition government was to examine the possibility of granting anonymity to rape defendants.
This move, which burst forth in the absence of any formal consultation, quickly demonstrated that the instinct to protect the interests of a small group of men had been granted precedence over those of one of the most vulnerable groups in our society – rape complainers. This was perhaps not surprising (particularly given the marked gender imbalance in the new UK Government), but with a conviction rate for rape standing currently at 6% in England and Wales, and a shocking 3% in Scotland, where can there possibly be any justification for making the struggle for women who have been raped to find justice even worse?