Women to put UK justice system on trial over rape scandal

By staff writers
15 Feb 2008

A campaigning group that was formed 30 years ago to change law, attitudes and policy towards crime against women will mark the anniversary with a people's trial of Britain's justice system over the continuing scandal of rape.

The event, "The rape of justice - who's guilty?" organised by Women Against Rape, will take place at Trinity United Reformed Church (URC) in Camden, London, on Saturday 16 February 2008, from 2-5pm.

Women Against Rape, which has joined forces with Black Women Against Rape, says: "Three decades ago, when it was still legal for a man to rape his wife, Women Against Rape, just formed, announced a rape trial with a difference: women were putting the government and its criminal justice system on trial for condoning and even encouraging rape."

The trial at the weekend will look at what has happened since and reach a verdict on what should happen now.

WAR sayss: "[This] is an opportunity for those who have suffered to "testify about your experience of dealing with sexual, domestic and other violence, what you did to try to get protection and justice and what response you got from each of the authorities. Male survivors of sexual violence are also welcome."

The groups points out that "ost people now support women’s right to say 'no' under any circumstance and at any point, and to get justice when that 'no' is ignored."

"Yet, the conviction rate for recorded rape is down to 5.7%. So once again we are putting the authorities on trial for persistently 'letting rapists off the hook', which denies women and girls justice and makes us all vulnerable."

Women Against Rape says that "[t]hose in charge of justice still often hold women responsible for rape and sexual assault."

Opinion research suggests that an unacceptably large number of members of the public still blame women themselves for what happens to them, in spite of other changes in social attitudes over the last thirty years. This also impacts on the results of jury trials, say campaigners.

The organisers of Saturday's trial say: "Increasingly women have reported rape and sexual assault, even when it was frightening, embarrassing and dangerous to do so, and even when the police didn’t want to know. We reported rape not only by strangers but by dates, husbands, partners, fathers, step-fathers, uncles, brothers, babysitters, employers, immigration officers, teachers, lecturers, carers, police, soldiers . . . And we have fought to defend our children even more than ourselves."

For 30 years, with little or no funding, Women Against Rape has been highlighting and criticising the authorities that don’t investigate or lose and misrepresent evidence; demonstrating in courts and private clubs; pressing for changes in the law, the police, the Crown Prosecution Service, the courts and the compensation system; winning legislation which recognises rape in marriage as a crime; working for rape survivors not to be detained, left destitute, or have their children torn from them; winning compensation for many rape victims after they had been turned down; and taking on vital test cases, including one against the CPS.

According to statistics from the United Nations, one in six women has been raped; of Black women, nearly 1 in 8 has suffered racist sexual assault; two women a week are murdered by their partner or ex-partner; 98% of domestic violence is not reported to the police; only 2.7% of applications for paternal child contact are refused (of a total of 46,000 in 2003); an estimated 50% of women seeking asylum in Britain have fled rape; and less than 6% of reported rapes result in conviction.

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Against Rape: http://www.womenagainstrape.net/indexpage.htm

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