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Changes to Rape Laws

Out of every 100 rapes, 32 get reported to the police, 7 lead to an arrest and 3 are referred to prosecutors. But even when the crime is reported, it is incredibly unlikely to lead to an arrest and prosecution. Only 2% of rapists will spend a day in prison. So it is with these horrifying statistics in mind that the issues surrounding laws against rape must and are, finally, being addressed.

Consent to sexual intercourse isn’t a grey area in law, consent must always be given fully and freely. But for some reason, the burden of proof has always laid heavily upon the victim, forcing them to feel under scrutiny themselves, making far less victims wish to come forward and deal with the brutal and often embarrassing ordeal.

However due to the considerable changes to the way in which sex offences are now currently being investigated, men who are accused of date rape will now have to convince police that the woman in question did consent fully to their sexual activities. The burden of proof has finally shifted.

For what seems like an eternity, society has blamed victims for the issue of confused consent. But now, although it may seem to have come a little late for many, it feels as if things are beginning to shift in the right direction for rape victims getting some form of justice and protection. What seems totally obvious in regards to situations where women cannot or are unable to say no, is only just being recognised by society today. How this is only now being addressed in 2015 baffles me. Are we still living in the Dark Ages? Did I miss something?

Although this is a huge step forward in ensuring fewer rapists evade punishment, this moment of change seems slightly marred by the fact that even in this century we are still fighting against what constitutes as not giving consent. According to Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, one in five women have experienced sexual assault. That statistic utterly horrifies me. That’s a sister or a friend, a mother or a daughter. With such a huge proportion of people suffering from these attacks, it feels like this new law has been in dire need – and it is absolutely vital we do not lose sight of making victims feel like they can come forward and get justice.

So what do these changes really mean for women across the country and why now? The Director of Public Prosecutions claimed “it was time for the legal system to move beyond the concept of ‘no means no’ to recognise situations where women may have been unable to give consent”. These changes mean that rape victims will no longer be blamed and held responsible for being too drunk to consent to sex. The guidelines also say that the ability to consent to sex should also be questioned when the complainant has mental health problems, learning difficulties or was asleep or unconscious at the time of the alleged attack. These laws now mean that the arguments; ‘she was asking for it’ are finally undermined. It’s about time we have laws that want to change perspectives in regards to the treatment of victims. Now, the crime will no longer be drinking too much, but that targeting someone who is no longer capable of consenting is.

Rape victims have always been vilified and criticised in public court cases and things really have to change. If these new laws alter anything, let’s hope that it’s people’s perceptions and attitudes towards the seriousness of rape and consent. 


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