Are women inherently dishonest? We must be, particularly when accusing men of rape. This is one of the most pervasive of all rape myths: that women love nothing better than maliciously and falsely accusing decent, law-abiding men of sexual violation. Some of the coverage of the poor young woman in Cyprus would lead you to believe that men are walking targets for female fantasists hellbent on destroying their lives. Having met the young woman convicted of making false allegations of rape against 12 men, I am very clear that she’s not lying. Why is it then that we are so keen to believe that young women in particular lie about rape?
Let’s look at the recent figures from the UK. We know, from the government’s own research, and expertise from rape crisis centres that only a tiny minority of sexual assaults are ever reported to police. Right now in the UK, the conviction rate for those cases reported to police stands at a shocking 1.4 per cent, one of the lowest in Europe, and the worst in the UK since records began over a decade ago.
Bearing this in mind, is it really possible that anywhere approaching the figure of 98.6 per cent of complainants are making false allegations for malicious, trivial purposes?
So, those women that do go to the trouble of reporting rape are, according to some, making it up. Their motives? They hate men and want to punish them for some minor transgression or other. Perhaps the man they falsely accused of rape dumped and humiliated the complainant, so she decided to get her own back? Or these women have been told that they can pull in a load of compensation (the average pay-out by Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority is around £11,000) which would no doubt take them on numerous luxury holidays to resorts to pick up gangs of men for sex.
Either way, the disproportionate media coverage on cases of women convicted of making false allegations of rape can give much of the general public, and therefore those that sit on juries in rape trials, the impression that women are dangerous fantasists that imagine being raped.
Increasingly, the defence used by men accused of rape in consent cases is that the complainant has happily and enthusiastically participated in the type of sex that tends to be a popular porn narrative – such as having a gang bang with a load of strange men. If the complainant is forensically examined and found to have suffered internal bleeding, extensive bruising, and signs of serious trauma, this is dismissed as merely signs of the rough-and-tumble of sexual activity.
The impression given by the focus on women supposedly lying about sexual assault is that whilst countless men languish in prison, their accusers are having a rare old time buying vodka shots, while snogging any half decent man available and setting him up as her next victim. Presumably, part of her holiday fun is getting ready to give a detailed statement to police alleging serious sexual assault if things don’t work out for her on their date. It must be a major cheap thrill to recount humiliating details of previous sexual history in public, and enduring, on the very rare occasion it gets this far, a Crown Court trial where she, rather than the accused, is judged.
After 40 years of campaigning to end rape, I am well aware that the real injustice relating to rape is that the vast majority of men who commit rape will never even be reported to police, let alone locked in a prison cell.
Have a think about any 18 to 19 year old young women you know, perhaps in your friendship circle, or the daughter or granddaughter of your friends. Do you really think these young women are fair game for a gang bang with several strangers in a cheap hotel room, or might that be the fantasy of young, porn sick men?
Imagine, if you are lucky enough not to have experienced it, what it must feel like to be raped, traumatised, hurt and scared, only to be punished for daring to speak out. Because the reality about rape is that women who report sexual assault are far more likely to be judged and blamed than the accused.