The report found there was no evidence the new rules were being "widely observed".
Applications to admit evidence of sexual history were taking place during trials and being presented verbally, rather than in writing as they should be. The report said there was a "surprising lack of knowledge" about the correct procedure to follow among nearly half the 17 judges interviewed. Ignorance of the new rules was also thought to be widespread among barristers, it noted.
Some defence barristers were said to be timing their requests "just before or during cross-examination to create the most pressure on the complainant". In one example a defence barrister asked a defendant if there had been blood on the bedsheets after he first had sex with a woman who made a rape complaint against him. "This was clearly intended to suggest that C was not a virgin when she first had sex with D," the report said. It illustrated a tactic deployed by defence teams to "evade the legislation", it added.
These tactics are all meant to draw the jury's attention away from the actions taken by the defendent and to play on stereotypes people have about women's sexuality. They want to recreate the myth of the female who is so wanton that she'll have sex with any man any time, but will press charges to protect the lie that she is a virtuous female.
This myth is in play anytime someone says, "She couldn't have been raped, she _____." (has been sexually active, flirted, drank too much, etc.) or "He can't be a rapist, he _____." (attends church every Sunday, volunteers, is an honor student, etc.)
What we need to do is respond to these attacks on the alleged victim's purity as if they tell us the defendent is as good as admitting he did what he's accused of doing but he doesn't think what he did was wrong.
The problem with that defense is there is no such thing as justifiable rape. If a man or boy can be seen as a credible witness even though he has an admitted sexual past, it is bigotry to refuse to believe anything a woman or girl says during a rape trial because she has a sexual past.
Even though the UK rape trial changes aren't working yet, they shouldn't be dropped as a lost cause.
Technorati tags: rape crime politics sexual assault feminism