Socialist Worker

Sexism is what stops reporting of rape

The case of a woman jailed for lying about rape highlights systematic hypocrisy over sexual assault, writes Sadie Robinson

Issue No. 2569

Media coverage of the case

Jemma Beale was jailed for ten years last week after being found guilty of perjury and perverting the course of justice.

A jury found that she had made up claims of rape and sexual assault. One rape allegation made in 2010 led to Mahad Cassim being jailed for seven years.

Right wing rags such as The Sun denounced Beale’s “sick lies” while the Daily Telegraph described her as a “lesbian fantasist”.

Judge Nicholas Loraine-Smith said Beale’s persistence in making “untrue” allegations was “particularly chilling”.

He added, “These false allegations are likely to have the perverse impact of increasing the likelihood of guilty men going free.

“Cases such as this bring a real risk that a woman who has been raped or sexually assaulted may not complain to the police for fear of not being believed.”

In reality the knowledge that the system is stacked against women is what puts people off reporting rape.

Women who lie about rape are a tiny minority. Yet some will use Beale’s case to exaggerate the “scandal” of women falsely accusing men of rape.

Scandal

The real scandal is that tens of thousands of women are raped every year and the vast majority don’t see justice.

Government figures estimate that 85,000 women and girls in England and Wales suffer rape or sexual assault by penetration every year.

Yet a 2013 Ministry of Justice and Home Office report said that only 15 percent had reported the attacks to the police. One of the main reasons given was that they “didn’t think the police could do much to help”. That’s no surprise.

The same report found that the “no crime” rate for rape, where a rape is reported but police decide no crime has taken place, was 10.8 percent. The rate for sexual offences was 7.2 percent. The rate for overall police recorded crime was 3.4 percent.

Police repeatedly fail to take rape allegations seriously, blame the victims or discourage women from pursuing complaints.

In 2015-16 police recorded 23,851 reports of adults being raped, nearly all women. There were 11,947 recorded rapes of children. Yet there were just 2,689 convictions—a rate of 7.5 percent.

A man who rapes a woman is likely to receive a shorter jail sentence than Beale was given.

Figures in 2011 showed that the average sentence for rape was over eight and a half years.

But 134 out of 984 rapists jailed received sentences of four years or less. Forty convicted rapists weren’t jailed at all. And convicted rapists in England and Wales generally serve just half their sentence in prison.

Jemma Beale’s case points to the sexism at the heart of a system that treats lying about rape as worse than rape itself.


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