The remorseless smears of the alleged victims of serious sexual assault by George Galloway MP and Craig Murray, our former ambassador to Uzbekistan will have serious consequences for the victims of sexual assault on British shores. Both men are guilty of some of the most callous behaviour of modern political times in their intemperate outbursts, which are about much more than Julian Assange.
The victims of these crimes in this country already suffer from a unique combination of trauma and stigma. It is no surprise that rape and associated crimes are perennially underreported.
An authoritative study commissioned by the Home Office in 2007 found that ‘between 75 and 95 per cent of rape crimes are never reported to the police’. The real significance comes from the explanation of why this figure is so high:
Studies show that the decision not to report is often based on a combination of factors and that many of these are connected to the notion of ‘real rape’ – that is, committed by a stranger, in a public place or in the context of a break-in, and involving force and injury.
This is, of course, a highly tapered definition of rape but it explains a popular misconception which my colleague Isabel examined in greater depth yesterday.
But the pitiless tirade of abuse that Galloway and Murray have aimed at the alleged victims of Julian Assange has only reinforced that narrow view of rape. It will undoubtedly discourage more victims of sexual assault from coming forward.
Galloway used an online chat show to discredit and demonise Assange’s accusers:
‘The allegations made against him [Assange] by the two women – and I’m not even going into their political connections, I’m going to leave that for others and for another day. I’m going to leave the fact that one, maybe both, of his accusers have the strangest of links to the strangest of people, organisations and states, I’m going to leave that entirely aside.
‘Even taken at its worst, if the allegations made by these two women were true, 100 per cent true, and even if a camera in the room captured them, they don’t constitute rape. At least not rape as anyone with any sense can possibly recognise it.’
The unspoken corollary is clear and hugely damaging. If it happened then it wasn’t ‘real rape’, but why even believe the little molls anyway? Didn’t you know they have ‘political connections’ with ‘the strangest of people, organisations and states?’
It is hard to think of a similar case where the alleged victims of a serious assault have been publicly maligned in such a way. To make it worse, Galloway and Murray are both men who are intimately familiar with the political system.
This is really a very simple case, much more so than Assange’s supporters would have you believe. A crime has been alleged. The police are investigating. They have questions they would like Assange to answer. Instead, his supporters are so fixated with the myth of ‘American imperialism’ and its supposedly creeping tentacles that they would rather we subvert the rule of law.
That is the principle on which this whole impasse currently stands: due process. One might have expected Galloway and Murray to appreciate this, but in their ceaseless quest to defend anyone perceived to be striking a blow against the American Colossus they are happy to sacrifice not just the very system to which they owe their careers but, worse, the present and future victims of serious sexual assault.