Saturday, 28 May 2011

Rape prevention and the government

[trigger warning]

Inspired by the recent exchange between Baroness Gale and Lord McNally to find out what the government is up to regarding rape prevention, I've sent this letter off to the Equalities Office.

Dear Government Equalities Office,

The response by the government to rape has been highlighted in the media again recently. On 24 May in the Lords (Hansard HL Deb, 24 May 2011, c1682) Baroness Gale asked Lord McNally

"Will the Minister give an undertaking to ensure that there is a public awareness campaign about the laws on rape and consent so that we make it absolutely clear that non-consensual sex is a serious offence?"

Lord McNally replied

"I agree with the noble Baroness that it is time to publicise the seriousness of rape, and I think that that could be started in the schools and by looking at some of the worrying things in advertising, in pop music and in some of the newspapers [...] Some of those should look at where they put the position of women in society and whether they encourage young men to give women the respect that they should have."

The exchange raises a very important point that is often overlooked: while there has been significant progress made in improving the justice system's response to rape in investigation and prosecution, and in providing more support for the victims of sexual violence, the sheer prevalence of the crime, and the vast number of people willing and able to commit rape, means that such strategies, no matter how effective, cannot alone solve the problem.

Could you please tell me:

  • what campaigns to prevent rape and/or to discourage people from choosing to rape has the Equalities Office recently run or have planned?
  • what other government departments have or will soon run campaigns with similar aims?
  • what recent studies the Equalities Office has commissioned or is aware of concerning the motivations, psychology and methodology of rapists in the UK, and what, if any, future studies you intend to commission?

Thank you

Yours faithfully


Other departments that I might expect1 to be involved in rape prevention:

  • Education: obviously good education on consent and respect in general, and in sexual behaviour more specifically, would be beneficial. But how to get around the attitudes normally associated with sex education?
  • Culture, Media and Sport: as Lord McNally hinted at, advertising and "pop culture" play a large role in reinforcing rape culture. Most of this is privately-produced, so there are limits to the government's powers - but I certainly don't want my taxes going to promote rape apologism and to portray rape or sexual assault as normal sexual behaviour.
  • Defence: Rape as a weapon of war is very common. There's a role here in both policing conflict areas that we're involved in, and in making sure that our own forces aren't committing rape.
  • Justice: Beyond the obvious "locking up rapists so they don't do it again", prevention of prison rape and attempting rehabilitation of convicted rapists should be on their agenda. Education of people who were caught for something other than rape would also be beneficial, given the correlation between rape and other violent crimes

Those seem like the obvious ones - I may have missed some. It will be interesting to see what reply I get.

1 "Expect" as in "this should", not "this is", probably