It is 2020, the start of a new year and the start of the next decade. With a new decade comes new prospects, new ambitions and new opportunities. A fresh decade means we are full of hope. Despite the shining promise that is 2020, it has a dark underbelly. With the Harvey Weinstein trial process having begun last week and the power of the #MeToo movement, it’s time to discuss sexual assault.
We should talk about sexual assault and why it is so common in a society that preaches equality and rights.
Rape and sexual assault in any form is arguably one of the most horrific things that can happen to a person, leaving victims with trauma that can take years for them to overcome or even learn how to deal with them. For some, the emotional damage stays with them for life and they never truly get over it.
With this in mind, many rape or assault cases go unreported as victims are often too scared to speak out because of fear of not being believed or a fear of lack of evidence. Why? Why should victims of such terrible crimes feel scared of not being believed or being accused of lying? In 2020 this should not be happening. In 2020 this issue shouldn’t still exist.
As well as this, cases that do get reported either don’t make it to trial or the defendants receive a poor conviction, one that certainly does not fit the crime. Where is the justice in that? Where is the justice in a victim dealing with emotional scars that will stay with them forever whilst their abusers walk free to re-offend or serve only a minimum prison sentence?
According to Rape Crisis England and Wales, only around 15 per cent of those who experience sexual violence actually report it to the police. 15 per cent. That is all. A shocking and disgusting figure considering the police are supposed to serve justice to victims. I understand the police cannot help if they aren’t aware a crime has been committed, but how can anyone have faith in the justice system and believe that their attack will be taken seriously when only 5.7 per cent of reported rape cases end in a conviction.
As a young woman studying at university, I hear so many stories from friends and other people in my age group who have experienced some kind of sexual attack and it alarms me how common it is. Almost every female and in some cases, male, that I know has experienced being touched or attacked without their consent. In what modern society is that ever okay? Consent is such a widely discussed topic and yet for some reason it never seems to be respected or enforced. No means no under any circumstances and people need to learn to respect that.
If we look at high profile sexual violence cases, the same issues arise. In the Brock Turner case, Turner was sentenced to just six months in prison and was released after serving three. The victim, Chanel Miller, eventually had her voice heard by relinquishing her anonymity and publishing a memoir titled ‘Know My Name: A Memoir’. The book contains details of the assault, trial and aftermath. The case highlighted issues surrounding male and class privilege that should’ve been discussed years prior.
Likewise, the recent case of the Cyprus rape allegation has issues that are still ongoing. For those who are unaware of this case, it involves a 19-year-old British female tourist who reported being gang raped by 12 Israeli teenagers whilst on holiday in Ayia Napa. The victim then retracted her statement and the teenagers were released without charge. She was then charged with making a false statement and the defence argued that the retract of the statement was under duress. However she was found guilty by a judge in December 2019. A victim of rape was punished whilst her attackers continue with their lives. How backwards can we get in our actions and attitudes to this?
When looking at data from the Crime Survey for England and Wales, I found that between April and June 2019, 160,272 sexual violence crimes including stalking and harassment were recorded by police. In 2018, The Guardian reported that one in five women in England and Wales have experienced some form of sexual assault since the age of 16. The ONS also said within the same article, that 80 per cent of victims did not report their experiences to the police. More recently, an article written by The Independent in April 2019, stated that New Home Office statistics suggest the alleged perpetrators of more than 98 per cent of rapes reported to the police are allowed to go free.
The cases and the figures on the subject are disgusting and almost hard to believe. Sexual violence is being normalised and there is not enough punishment or reinforcement available to stop this from happening. In the end, it is the victims who suffer the most and apparently the world has lost sight of that. If we are to change this truth then we need to change our attitudes first.