Critically examine the criminal justice process to identify both discriminatory practice and good practice in the area of the treatment of female rape victims There is no doubt that rape is a traumatic experience and can leave devastating consequences on its victims, whether male or female. However, there are still stereotypes and myths associated with rape and often the victims find themselves being disbelieved or being questioned in a way as if they were the offender.
Many feel the criminal justice system is to blame for this, and I am going to critically analyse the good and bad practice of the treatment of female rape victims. One of the most difficult decisions for victims of rape is whether to report the offence to the police. Rape has a low reporting rate and in 2003 only 39% of rapes were reported to law enforcements (2003 National crime victimisation survey). There are many reasons for a women not reporting a rape. Some believe the rape is personal, which is especially the case where the rape is an ex-boyfriend or husband.
These cases are the most likely not to be reported, when in fact around 90% of rapes are committed by someone the victim knew. ( Fawcett society study) Many women also do not report due to fear of reprisal, or fear that the police and courts are biased and believe the myths surrounding rape i. e. : That it is committed by strangers, at night, with the use of violence. Even when a case is reported, statistics show that only 25% of reported cases were prosecuted and 10% of reported cases tried but with no conviction.
With these low conviction rates it is no wonder that women are hesitant about reporting the rape. If a woman decides to report the crime to the police, it is not always recorded. Ian Blair, the deputy commissioner of London's metropolitan police service gave a recent conference and stated that they have been trying to change the attitudes of the police forces across the country towards rape victims for nearly two decades. He described how, when he was a detective sergeant, it was his job to ensure only 'good' rapes were recorded.
They defined a 'good' rape as one in which the victim was respectable, preferably virginal or faithfully married and fought off her attacker to the extent of being visibly injured. (www. feminist. com) All other rapes, including rapes of prostitutes and women with a number of casual liaisons were not considered 'good' and therefore not recorded. The low conviction rate of rapes led to an investigation by her Majesty's inspectorate of constabulary and HM Crown prosecution service. Their report found that victims are often treated badly by police and prosecutors. (www.
justicewomen. com) Professor Liz Kelly describes the treatment a rape victim may receive from the police as a 'lottery', with wide variations of the way that they may deal with the victim. She found that the examples of excellent practice were outnumbered by the bad. The police interaction research project, ( Harriet Lessel, CSW Executive director principal investigator, Kathleen Kapila) conducted a study and found that victims had many negative experiences during the interview process. They found that many police officers were lacking in sympathy, support or empathy.
Often they acted inappropriately, were intimidating and disrespectful, sceptical, unprofessional and dismissive. In many cases they were disbelieving of the story and some even accused the victim of lying. Many expressed blame and a judgemental attitude and in some cases asked 'why not' questions (why didn't you fight back, scream, tell anyone etc). Police officers were seen to pressurise victims to undergo procedures such as evidence collection before they had decided what they wanted to do, or in cases where disbelief was an issue, were uninterested in evidence collection or even taking a report.
This report also found that in cases where the victim had been drinking, the police were less likely to take the case seriously, as with if the victim was dressed or behaving in a certain way. If an advocate was present during the interview this had mixed reactions. In some cases the police acted professionally, however in other cases they seemed resentful of the advocate being there and even argued with them in front of the victim. Some police stations train special victim detectives, trained to deal with victims of crimes such as rape.
However, the report found that victims found more positive experiences with un-uniformed police officers than with the actual special victim detectives. In the early 1980's a television documentary was made by Roger Graef which exposed the obnoxious attitude of the Thames valley police during interviews, which coincides with this study. However, the police interaction research project also found that in many cases the victims had positive experiences during interviewing. They found that many were helpful, respectful, appropriate, professional and nice.
Officers took time to explain questions and why they needed to ask them. In many cases they were concerned with the victims comfort and made it clear that they believed the story and acted informatively, explaining any procedure in an understandable language. These key elements show that many police officers do act appropriately, in the way of the training of sexual assault cases. Many victims that have reported their crime found the medical forensic examination very traumatic and if dealt with unprofessionally can have the same devastating effect as the rape itself.
This is known as the 'second rape'. The University of Illinois conducted a study and discovered that the majority of rape victims who reported their crime to the medical system did not receive the needed services. Although they found that many of the services were offered to some of the victims, over half of them were not informed of the risk of pregnancy, the availability of the morning after pill or information on STI's and HIV. They also discovered that victims of stranger rape were more likely to be told of HIV risks than the victims of non-stranger rape.
Many women reporting rape find themselves with a male doctor performing the examination, without any choice in the matter. Many felt this was inappropriate and insensitive. In one case, the victim even found herself being examined by a male doctor, with a male nurse present. As the doctor carried out the examination they were discussing their holiday plans, which the victim felt was highly unprofessional considering the circumstances. Some victims also find that they are being asked questions again by doctors that they have already answered to the police, without any explanation as to why they are being asked again.
Many victims therefore state that they found the medical examination more degrading than the rape itself. ( Cited in Williams. B. Working with victims of crime,Policies,politics and practices. p63) There are also many issues surrounding the fact that rape is the only crime where the victim has to pay for their medical examination. After a rape, if the victim is taken to hospital for medical treatment and they decide to have a medical examination to collect evidence, the test is billed, leaving the victim to pay out of their own medical insurance. This in turn just causes more feelings of trauma and injustice in the process.