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Don't let new tactics obscure the same crime

The narrative of the case currently receiving widespread publicity, in which a woman is seeking a private prosecution for rape, is very familiar to us at Rape Crisis Scotland.

We frequently speak to rape survivors who feel very let down by the justice system, and who feel strongly the need to seek justice, no matter the cost to them personally. We are seeing increasing numbers of women considering other routes to justice, after failing to obtain this from the criminal justice system. In our experience, giving up on the notion of ever getting justice can be one of the most difficult things for rape survivors to come to terms with.

The circumstances of this case are also familiar. We hear frequently of women being targeted for rape by predatory men, either because they are very drunk, or in order to ply them with alcohol or other substances. Make no mistake - this is every bit as serious as any other instance of rape. Only the setting and the means differentiate this act from the stereotype of a stranger jumping out on someone from behind a bush: in every other respect, the intention and the criminal act it leads to are the same one. What we are seeing increasingly is simply a change in tactics - predatory men know that there is a much greater chance of getting away with rape if they use alcohol rather than violence. Often the reason - or part of the reason - for them getting away with it is the existence of evidence such as CCTV footage showing what appears to be some consensual contact - holding hands, kissing. These men know what they are doing, that this may somehow invalidate what is often significant evidence of intoxication, to the level a woman may be barely able to speak or stand up.

While in Scotland our law is very clear that there can be no consent where someone is intoxicated to the point they are unable to give consent, in practice these cases can be very difficult to prosecute. We must send a clear message to rapists and potential rapists that this behaviour isn’t only unacceptable, it’s criminal. We need to speak with young people, and the public in general, about what rape and consent actually is. We need to empower others - bystanders - to feel able to intervene if they see someone being targeted in this way. Most importantly, we need to ensure that our legal system is able to provide justice in these circumstances.

Otherwise, men will keep getting away with rape.

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