Archive for March 19th, 2008

Petition to the Prime Minister

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to provide proper funding for Rape Crisis. We commend the invaluable work of Rape Crisis in bringing much needed support to people affected by sexual violence often years after the offences have taken place. We note with sadness that in 1984 there were 68 affiliated members of Rape Crisis (England and Wales) but now there are just 38. We believe this is a failure of successive administrations and endorse the New Statesman’s campaign to secure proper funding from the government so existing Rape Crisis centres can continue their work and that new centres can open

Sign the Petition at

See also latest articles from New Statesman Campaign:

Victory for Rape Crisis campaign

Minister for Women Harriet Harman announces £1 million in emergency funds for Rape Crisis’s work supporting the victims of sexual violence following the group’s campaign in conjunction with

Minister for Women Harriet Harman has announced up to £1 million in emergency funding towards keeping Rape Crisis centres open, following a campaign by in conjunction with Rape Crisis calling on the government to provide proper funding for the group’s work helping victims of sexual violence.

Speaking at Haven, a Sexual Assault Referral Centre in Camberwell, south London, on Tuesday, Harman said: “Rape Crisis England and Wales has done an important job in alerting us to the funding challenges faced at a local level by these rape crisis centres.

“We’ve stepped in with this emergency funding to help stop them from closing, while we sort out the longer term.”

“Rape is one of the most devastating offences for victims. It violates the basic right of women, men and children to be treated with dignity and respect.”

But Rape Crisis Chair Dr. Nicole Westmarland told that more funding was needed.

“I am delighted that the government have put their heads together – and importantly their purses together! – to come up with this emergency fund for Rape Crisis Centres. We know the government do value Rape Crisis services, and we are pleased that they have announced this fund to help those that are most critical to stay open.

“In the longer term, more money is clearly needed to prevent this mess from arising again. Hopefully lessons learned in Scotland can be brought down to England and Wales and we can begin to ensure that all rape survivors have access to the support they deserve.”

They also have additional reports:

Scotland leads the way by Margaret Curran

The Rape Crisis crisis by Nicole Westmarland

What about rape victims? by Katherine Rake

Raped by person known by Davina James-Hanmen

See earlier story at

Outline of BBC Radio 4’s Law In Action – Tuesday 18 March 1600 GMT

Only 5.7% of rape complaints reported to the police result in a conviction. For many that’s a shocking figure.

Law In Action spoke to several women who had been raped, but whose attackers were not prosecuted. The reasons why their cases didn’t get to court were varied.

In two of the cases, the women were drugged, so had little memory of the events. In others, the attackers claimed their victims had consented.

Kirsty Brimelow, a criminal barrister, explains why prosecuting rape is different from prosecuting almost any other crime.


Often one of the critical factors in prosecuting cases is the efficient collection of forensic scientific evidence.

There are twenty Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARCs) across England and Wales, and the government is planning to open a further eighteen this year.

These are victim-centred facilities where complainants can get support and counselling. But crucially, they are also facilities where the doctors are trained to collect and preserve DNA evidence.

Linda Pressly visited one of the London SARCs.


In order to make the prosecution of rape cases more professional, the Crown Prosecution Service in London has recently appointed three specialist rape advocates.

The idea is that just one advocate will handle a case from the time a complaint is made, right through to appearing before a jury if the case goes to court.

Clive Coleman secured rare access to one of the advocates, Sarah Le Foe. He spent the morning with her as she is briefed by both the police and a colleague.


There is a good deal of argument about what more needs to be done to improve the system. Some argue that once a case gets to court there is not a significant problem with prosecutions, because over 50% of defendants are convicted.

But the government has concerns about what happens in court. The Solicitor General has recently set up a panel of experts to explore whether juries should be given more information about rape.

Dr Louise Ellison – who is on the panel – debates the issue with barrister, Anthony Heaton-Armstrong.

If you have thoughts on any of the topics we’ve covered, or any other legal issues, Law In Action would like to hear from you. You can contact us by email at or by post at Law in Action, BBC White City, Wood Lane, London W12 7TS or you can call us on 020 8752 5646.

You can listen to the programme at

University of Winnipeg professor Shannon Sampert has concerns about how rape is reported in the media.

Sampert was speaking to University of Regina political science students where she shared part of her Ph.D. dissertation with the students titled Let Me Tell You a Story: The use of myths and stereotypes about rape in English Canadian newspapers.

“I looked at in total about 1,532 stories on rape,” said Sampert. “I interrogated whether or not these rape myths that we have all grown up, how often they are being used in the newspaper and how salient they are.”

She determined that rape myths were used in more than half of the six newspapers she examined. Some of the most common myths are that rape is sex, it’s romance gone wrong or it’s misguided communication between a man and a woman, or that women are lying and the perpetrator is essentially a good man.

Another common myth is that women provoke their rape by walking alone down dark back alleys or by leaving their drinks unattended.

Sampert said rape is an act of violence and aggression against women and needs to referred to in such terms.

“My analysis has actually determined that it isn’t the journalist who is responsible. (Reporters) are just reporting what (they) are being told. It’s the police that are telling (reporters) these myths and stereotypes,” she explained.

Sampert spent 15 years as a journalist and in her job she accepted what the police told her, but that should change. She believes it’s the journalist’s role to hold police and defence lawyers accountable in how they talk about victims. She said reporters need to do more follow-up stories about sexual assaults to give victims a voice.

“Only a small number of sexual assaults are reported through the media and the ones that are over-emphasize the ‘stranger danger,’ ” said Sampert. “Quite frankly the people who are raping women are not strangers. They are brothers, uncles, dads, grandpas, boyfriends, ex-boyfriends, and husbands. We need to start talking about that.”

She said reporters need to stop relying solely on police comment. Instead journalists should include comment from sexual assault counsellors so they could provide information on sexual assault violence.

“I see it as a lack of attention paid to these myths and a lack of media questioning these myths,” she said. “One of my purposes of doing this is asking reporters and asking police to push themselves to provide an alternative frame.”

Sampert believes changes in how police and reporters talk about such crimes will help more victims come forward. She said about 90 per cent of all assaults are never reported and one reason for this is because of the way victims are portrayed in the media.

“If we really want to be serious about improving our reporting rates we have to start rethinking how we talk about sexual violence in this country,” said Sampert.

She said one way to improve the system is by getting the police to change how they issue warnings. Instead, the police need to advise the public something is going on by letting everyone know what happened, when it happened, where it happened and a description of the perpetrator. Sampert wants the police to use more inclusive language that doesn’t place blame on women.

Sampert said the Robert Pickton trial in Vancouver is an example of how the public can be instrumental in creating change. The families of the victims came forward to ensure the women were seen as daughters, sisters and mothers and not just as drug addicts and prostitutes.

“That’s how we have to start being aggressive in changing the paradigm in which media works and how police talk about rape,” said Sampert.

See also: Report calls for changes to rape coverage in the media