On the bus this morning I saw a poster I'd not seen before - I think it's a new one - from the local police forces. It was an anti-rape poster, and unlike this recently spotted poster from South Wales Police, it was actually a fairly good one.
I cannot find a picture of it anywhere online, and I wasn't able to take one myself, so I'll try to describe it from memory. (If anyone has a picture of this poster, please let me know!)
- Right quarter of the poster: image, grey scale, of the casually-dressed upper legs and body of a light-skinned man, holding the bars of a cell with both hands.
- Most of the rest of the poster is text, which I'm not going to get word-for-word - but in paraphrase. Top line: "don't commit rape or this could happen to you". Then, below that, three examples of things which are rape.
- First example: "If she's too drunk to say 'yes', she's too drunk to say 'no'"
- Second example: "If she's under 16, even if she consents, it's illegal and you could be arrested."
- Third example: "No matter how many times she's said 'yes' before, she can still say 'no'. Rape of your wife or partner is still rape."
- Finally, the phone number for the local police forces, and their logos.
I'm sure experts in the field could suggest areas for improvement, but compared with the usual standard for these posters, I was actually pleased to see it. It keeps its focus on the perpetrators, making very clear that their self-justifications for their actions will not be accepted - while at the same time also giving the same message to the enablers who help perpetuate these myths, and the victims who might end up being told them so much they come to believe them.
It also reminded me, because of its contrast to the South Wales poster, that I had a letter to write - so here it is. I thought about sending it directly to the government departments, but my MP - unsurprisingly - tends to get more useful replies than I do.
I was today pleased to see an anti-rape poster, produced by the local police force, that focuses strongly on the perpetrators and sets out examples of situations where they do not have consent despite their beliefs. This reminded me of the large continuing regional variation in the success of the criminal justice system in this area, as revealed most recently by the BBC through Freedom of Information requests at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/special/uk/11/acpo_rape_stats/xls/rapestatistics.xls
As Baroness Stern found in her report on rape prosecutions, the existing guidance is followed extremely inconsistently. If every police force had the report to charge rate of Durham (60.8%), and if every CPS region had the ability to avoid dropping cases before trial that Dorset has (only 5.4% dropped), and if every CPS region had the success in securing convictions at trial of regions such as Warwickshire (87.0%), then half of all reported rapes would result in a conviction for the rapist (either of rape or a lesser offence)
This rate is potentially achievable without any new policies or procedures - simply by following existing best practice. Furthermore, the rapidity with which some police forces and CPS regions have achieved improvements in detection and conviction rates recently suggests that - with enough political will - this conviction rate could be achieved within a decade at most.
Would you be able to contact the relevant Ministers at the Home Office and Justice to ask them:
- if they will set as a national target that by 2020 the police and CPS will secure convictions in at least 50% of all reported serious sexual offence cases?
- what steps they are taking to ensure that best practice is replicated quickly across all police forces and CPS regions?
- what additional steps will they take in future to ensure that the situation improves?
Feel free to adapt this letter to your own MP, of course.