Trigger Warning: rape, sexual assault, femicide
A new UN survey has found that 97% of women age 18-24 in the UK have been sexually harassed.
Prosecutions and convictions of rape cases in Great Britain have more than halved from 2017-2020 according to the Guardian.
The Office of National Statistics revealed that two women die every week in the UK at the hands of a man.
There is a clear causal link between the criminal justice system’s continual failure to address sexual harassment and the rising rates of violence committed by men towards women in Great Britain.
Sarah Green, director of the End Violence Against Women coalition has stated ‘Today’s figures show starkly that we are right to say rape has been effectively decriminalised. What else can you call a 1 in 70 chance of prosecution.’
But hold on! We have a higher conviction rate than ever before, surely this will increase your faith in justice. Well actually, the reason we have a higher conviction rate is because of our lowered prosecution rate. And the reason for our lowered prosecution rate is because of a top-down order to only take rape cases which are guaranteed to get convictions. As reported by the Guardian in July 2020: ‘Two years ago, the Guardian revealed that in 2017 prosecutors in England and Wales had been advised in training seminars to put a ‘’touch on the tiller’’ and take a proportion of ‘’weak cases out of the system’’. The move would result in fewer prosecutions but a higher conviction rate. The conviction rate in 2016-2017 [the year before the order] was 57.6%, almost the lowest on record.’
Dame Vera Baird said in the same article: ‘there is no complexity in why rape prosecutions and convictions have crashed. It is a policy by CPS only to take only rock-solid prosecutions as set down in a CPS document in 2016-17 by the director of legal services and personally driven by him nationwide.’
Basically, what this means is that the CPS is more concerned with stat balancing than due process. And when rape culture like this is allowed to perpetuate in our society it is honestly no wonder that 97% of women under the age of 25 in the UK have been sexually harassed. And this plays into wider issues of the objectification of women which ultimately lead to devastating cases like Sarah Everard.
Education which targets teaching girls how to be safe, rather than teaching boys the laws of consent. A rise in radical misogyny which is targeting young, lonely, boys on the internet. An ineffective justice system which blames survivors, putting them through a hideous process if they want even a hope at justice. The system is broken.
To see how systemic misogynistic violence is, one only has to look at how much worse the violence is for intersectional women:
– a report by the Scottish Transgender Alliance indicates that 80% of trans people have experienced abuse from a partner.
– the NIPSV survey in 2010 found that bisexual women are almost two times more likely to be abused than straight women.
– the Bureau of Justice statistics stated that African American women experience partner violence at a 35% higher rate than white American women.
– a Department of Justice study revealed over half of Native American women have been victims of sexual violence, and over 90% of assaults were committed by non-Native Americans.
– Vice disclosed that less than 5% of femicides in Mexico achieve a conviction, and according to the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights from 2017-2020 the number of daily femicides in Mexico has increased from seven to 10.5, a number which is only rising higher in the pandemic.
I have used only North American and South American data to show violence against women of colour (WOC) because courtesy of the Huffington Post I found out that in the UK there is currently no specific data which correlates intersectional experiences with violence against women, because all data is grouped under the banner of BAME. This I believe fails to capture the nuances of different cultural backgrounds and the specific intersectional oppression that women of each individual culture will face, and further proves how at a systemic level there is a neglect over understanding the epidemic of violence against women in the UK (although recent Black Lives Matter funding will hopefully be a step towards change on this issue).
I think it’s clear to all the women who have been distraught by the Sarah Everard case this week that this is not just one bad man, this is not just one deeply horrifying case – this is a systemic issue, with no change coming.