I’m not surprised that every dickhead with an internet connection leaves comments on news websites about how a rape victim deserved it because she’d been drinking. I’m disappointed that journalists – who are generally more educated and more small-l liberal than the general public – continue to peddle rape myths, such as if you drink you deserve to be raped. And now I’m just pissed off that even the police think you asked for it: Research tackles police ‘rape myths’:
New research has found police are more likely to press sex assault charges if the alleged victim did not drink alcohol or wear provocative clothing at the time of the offence.
The ABC story doesn’t have a lot of info – just five sentences – but the Charles Sturt media release is more informative:
Professor Goodman-Delahunty said that reporting to police is the first, and potentially, most important step in the legal processing of sexual assault cases, and common reasons given by victims of sexual assault for why they fail to report these crimes include fear of lack of support or disbelief by police.
“Rape myths are commonly held beliefs and attitudes about sexual assault cases that are generally false, such as the belief that rape is most likely to be perpetrated by a stranger. These myths can affect one’s view of a sexual assault victim and a perpetrator, as can contextual factors such as victim attire and victim intoxication, which may increase the perception that the complainant was responsible for the assault, or the perception that the complainant is not credible.”
The study found that officers in general don’t let their perception of the victim’s intoxication influence them, but if individual officers believe rape myths, they “perceived the complainant as less credible, attributed her greater responsibility for the incident and were less likely to believe that she communicated non-consent. They were also less likely to regard the alleged perpetrator as guilty of sexual assault, and were less likely to recommend that the alleged offender be charged.”
Research from the Australian Centre for the Study of Sexual Assault found that only around 19 per cent of rapes are reported to police. And, as if this figure isn’t already too low, police investigate less than 40 per cent of these reports. And before you tell me that it’s because most women make it up, only 2.1 per cent of the reported cases were designated as false.
I’ve mentioned this here before, but in 2001 I was attacked by a taxi driver. I was coming home after a few too many wines. When I said ‘just here, thanks’, he didn’t stop. I repeated it. He kept driving. Then he turned down a dark residential street and sped up. He grabbed my leg (I was sitting in the back) and tried to pull me into the front of the car. I screamed and swore at him, and wound down the window and started yelling his driver ID number in the hope that someone would hear. He kept calling me a dirty slut and filthy whore and pulling on my leg. When I kicked him in the face, he stopped the car and turned to grab me again. I was halfway out the door before the car had even stopped moving, but he managed to grab my bag. There was no way I was letting him have it – it had my keys and address in it. We both pulled and the bag ripped in two. I scooped as much as I could out onto the road and slammed the door.
He drove off.
I had no idea where I was.
A man came out of his house and asked if I was ok. He told me I’d ended up three suburbs away.
I called my good friend and flatmate, who drove me straight to the police station.
I told the officer everything that happened and he took notes. Then he said that although he didn’t doubt my story – he said it happens all the time, taxi drivers preying on drunk female passengers – he’d have to put in the report that I’d been drinking. I was fine with that. He then talked me out of pressing charges. He said the driver would just claim I tried to do a runner and that he was trying to keep me in the cab until he got to a police station. He said security footage of me drinking at the bar earlier in the night would be shown in court, as evidence that I was of bad character. He said that because I wasn’t sexually assaulted or beaten up, it wasn’t worth pressing charges because I’m the one whose reputation would be damaged. He said to call the taxi company and make a complaint.
The woman on the phone at the taxi company was horrified. But she said all she could do was make a note of the complaint. They couldn’t pull the driver off the road until the police contacted them. Since I wasn’t pressing charges, they wouldn’t hear from the police.
For years afterwards, I only got in those taxis with that booth-thing around the driver. To protect me from him.
I don’t remember what I was wearing (it was in nine years ago), but it wouldn’t have been provocative. The most provocative thing I own is a small badge that says ‘I hate your band’. We’d been out for dinner and too many drinks after class, so I’m guessing it was trousers and a t-shirt. [Update: As Lexy pointed out in the comments below, my outfit has nothing to do with it. However, I wrote about what I was probably wearing to indicate that the police officer couldn’t have made a judgement about my story based on my outfit.]
In the years since, I’ve got some great lawyer friends who think I’m mad not to have pressed charges. But I was a broke student who believed him because he was a police officer and I have that weird middle-class respect for police officers. My point is that many people would believe an officer who said it wasn’t worth pressing charges. And if they’re making a judgement call about you based on unsubstantiated myths, then we have a serious problem.