The number of people reporting rape has risen, but the number of convictions has fallen. Something is going very badly wrong with the system.
f you have just been raped and you would like to pursue justice, I hope you know what to do. When the rape is over, do not wash, brush your teeth, eat, drink or smoke. Do not change your clothes or clear up any mess. If you can help it, do not go to the toilet.
Intellectually, I understand this advice; no one wants to wash away forensic evidence. But I have never met a woman, or indeed a man, who, after being raped, didn’t immediately shower or sit in the bath scrubbing themselves, trying to wash away the sins of the perpetrator. The victim might often then choose to tell no one; sometimes for years, sometimes forever.
In the past month, we have watched as Christine Blasey Ford gave evidence, before the eyes of the world, about an alleged sexual assault when she was 15, at a house party. This was a party she was not meant to have been attending, and the incredulity with which her account was greeted by some – including Donald Trump, who mocked her at a rally – struck me as false, because the idea that she would not have spoken out as a teenager is entirely plausible. But then recently we have found out, repeatedly, how little some men know, or want to know, about women’s lives.
Over the past year, the #MeToo movement and the Time’s Up initiative have enabled famous women to speak out, then ordinary women, too. There has never been a moment in history when more people have publicly shared their experiences of sexual assault. All of us who have been hassled, molested and assaulted, pre- and post-puberty, all of us who have felt ready to put up our hands and say “me too”, have embraced a hashtag that has enabled us to connect and show the ubiquity of rape. No more hiding, no more shame; what has been done to us hurts and keeps hurting, and there is solace in sharing.
The Brett Kavanaugh hearing triggered the latest in several waves of testimony that have broken over the past six years. Katie Russell, a spokeswoman for the charity Rape Crisis England and Wales, says that, in 2012, the Jimmy Savile story brought a spike in calls to the service, followed by another in 2017, when news broke of multiple sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein and other Hollywood figures.
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