Judge says rape victim ‘let herself down badly’
As Laura Bates recently wrote in The Independent, 2012 seemed to be the ‘year of victim blaming’.
Sadly it wasn’t just media commentators such as Caitlin Moran and Alyssa Royse implying women are at least partially culpable if they are raped - shockingly, it was also members of the police and judiciary.
In California, Judge Derek Johnson said that a rape victim “didn’t put up a fight” during her ordeal.
A British police officer recently tweeted “Its always sad to see young women become victims of sexual offences , Don’t Drink too much … and regret your actions!”.
And perhaps most concerning of all is the following:
On 14 December, while sentencing 49 year-old Anthony Parry to six years’ jail for raping a 19 year-old woman, Judge Niclas Parry said to Caenarfon Crown Court that the victim had “let herself down badly” and was “easy prey” for Parry.
The court heard that the victim woke up naked on a sofa in Anthony Parry’s house, to find her attacker on top of her.
The jury rejected the defendant’s claims that the victim had consented to sex, yet even in the face of a guilty verdict, Judge Niclas Parry felt the need to mention the victim’s behaviour.
In his summing up, Judge Parry stated that the victim had “consumed too much alcohol and took drugs” prior the attack. He added “but she also had the misfortune of meeting [Anthony Parry].”
Note Parry’s use of ‘also’.
As if drinking and taking drugs are somehow ‘contributing behaviours’ to a person raping you, rather than irrelevant incidentals to the crime.
As if anything, except a person deciding they are going to have sex with you without your consent, is a ‘contributing behaviour’ to rape.
As the recent Stern Review reminds us, the 2003 Sexual Offences Bill clearly sets out that ‘sex without consent is rape and all other factors about a person making a complaint of rape are irrelevant to that fact.” (my bold).
By ignoring these clear legal guidelines and deciding to pass comment on a rape victim’s behaviour, Judge Parry has undermined the much-deserved sentence he passed on Anthony Parry.
It is deeply irresponsible for a judge to reinforce one of the most dangerous rape myths of all – that rapists are not fully responsible for their actions, and that women are at least partially culpable for being raped – and it could contribute to more rape victims refusing to come forward, because they fear being blamed for their attack.
In 2008, 14 rape victims had their compensation restored by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA), after it was initially cut by 25 per cent because the victims had been drinking before they were attacked.
Despite CICA righting this terrible wrong, the very fact rape victims were ever accused of ‘contributory negligence’ at all speaks volumes about how our judiciary still views rape.
So let’s keep saying it until our voices are heard: the only thing that makes a woman truly ‘vulnerable to rape’ is being in proximity to a rapist.
Women are raped whether they are drunk, sober or tipsy, awake or asleep, using or not using drugs.
And they are raped by husbands, boyfriends, acquaintances, friends and family members. Only 9 per cent of rapes are by strangers.
If we really want to talk about what makes a woman ‘easy prey’ for a rapist, the only answer is being in possession of a vagina and knowing a man.
The only people who ‘let themselves down’ in this case were the man who chose to rape and the judge who ignored a rape victim’s right not have her behaviour scrutinised even though this is enshrined by law.
In doing that, Judge Niclas Parry has sent out a powerful message of support to a culture that tolerates and espouses rape myths rather than confronts the uncomfortable truth that women don’t just ‘get raped’, but that certain men choose to rape them.
He must retract his words and apologise for them, or further damage women’s faith in an already flawed system that has let down so many rape victims already.
You can sign the petition asking Judge Niclas Parry to retract and apologise for his comments here.