So the new government has somehow found time in its recession-busting schedule to propose a law that will grant anonymity to men accused of rape, who are of course the most pitiable and urgently unnoticed victims of woman-promoting-marriage-destroying-single-mum-supporting-violence-preventing Broken Britain. It's not as if the tabloids already paint women who allege rape as lying, heartless bitches out to destroy men and their god-given right to put their penis inside anything that gives the slightest hint of consent - by getting into their taxi, for example. Popular wisdom has it that vast numbers of rape allegations are false, when in fact false accusation is believed to account for only a tiny percentage of reported rapes - no higher than false reports for other crimes.
The Daily Fail have somehow produced both the most table-bitingly offensive assessment of the situation so far - from treacherous misogynist Melanie Phillips, who claims that "after Labour's reign of extreme man-hating feminism, common sense is reasserting itself" - and the most reasonable discussion of the issues for women, from Susanne Moore. "Do we have a Government intent on setting back women’s rights?" asks Moore. Sorry to disappoint you, Susanne, but we seem to.
Moore points out that adults who are falsely accused of child abuse run just as much, if not more risk of having their lives and reputations ruined as do men who are accused of rape - but the question of anonymity for them is not on the table. This is not a policy proposal with any real, consistent concern for the human rights of those accused of crimes. It is a rapists' charter, pure and simple, designed to protect men from lying women who, by not being properly shamed for speaking to the police when men rape, beat, assault and invade their bodies, have clearly had it all their own way for far too long.
Misogynists talk as though speaking about rape and consent is something that's easy to do, something that doesn't come with a social penalty for women, within or outside the legal system. This is not the case - particularly as most rapists prey on women who are personally known to them. When I eventually decided to speak about my experience of non-consensual sex on this blog, I was hounded by accusations of having made it all up. It was a big decision for me to come forward. At first I regretted it profoundly. Not because I was lying, but because as well as having experienced non consensual sex, during which I picked up a painful infection, I am now understood to be a manipulative lying bitch by people whose respect used to matter to me. I stayed in the house for days, not talking to anyone. And then I started getting the emails.
In the weeks after making that post I recieved no less than five emails from women who had recently experienced rape, saying that they felt happier talking to an anonymous person on the internet than going to their friends or the police. Saying that they were worried about telling people because they quite liked the guy, or their friends quite liked him, or because they thought they wouldn't be believed, or because they'd heard awful stories about how women who bring rape cases to court were publically accused of being sluts. Saying that they felt dirty and ashamed and scared and hurt and they didn't know who to contact about their internal bleeding. One of the women who emailed me was just fourteen years old.
Nobody is seriously suggesting that the number of women who remain silent about experiences of rape does not far exceed the small number of men who are falsely accused of rape - but it's clear where the government's priorities lie. It has been proven that naming rapists encourages women to come forward to report rape, just as it has been proven that a culture where women do not speak about rape and non-consensual sex allows rape to continue as an accepted part of our sexual dialectic - which is why anonymity for those accused of rape was waived in the first place. Just last year, when serial rapist John Worboys was eventually put on trial for nineteen counts of rape, no less than eighty-five women came forward claiming to have been sexually assaulted by him. Eighty five. Eighty five women who didn't know that they were part of a far broader picture. Eighty five women who didn't come forward until seeing their rapist's face in the paper convinced them that maybe it wasn't all their fault. Are eighty-five men falsely imprisoned for rape every year? Somehow I doubt it.
In this society, to accuse someone of rape is seen as a crime equal to raping someone. Men accused of rape are always given the benefit of the doubt. Women who get up the courage to speak about rape are invariably accused of lying. And now even our government is calling us liars. Rape ruins lives too - but the new regime seems to be interested only in silencing victims.