There has been a lot of talk over the past year about anonymity for alleged offenders of sexual violence and rape. Many prestigious people have called for anonymity at various different levels of the investigation into these crimes. This has been particularly apparent when celebrities have been found “not guilty”.
There have been examples of poor investigation and the media being tipped off about questioning and searches of alleged offenders property, and whilst it is important to address these issues, it should never be used as an excuse for giving anonymity to rapists, nor taking it away from victims.
Rape is a horrific crime, whether it is committed by someone who is known to the victim or not. Anonymity protects offenders and would be unlikely to work. People in the local vicinity are often aware that someone has been arrested or taken in for questioning. The word spreads locally. This however, is not enough to get the message out to potential victims, and this is why we don’t have it. It is vitally important that we are able to publicise names of those who have potentially committed crime. Not for vengeance, but for protection. Rapists don’t generally rape once. They carry out numerous attacks.
Victims coming forward often leads to others reporting what has happened to them too. This is not a case of jumping on a bandwagon, but realising that the MO that was used previously has been used again, and someone else is now suffering too.
There are false allegations but it is believed that there are no more false allegations of rape than any other type of crime, and recent statistics imply that you are 300 times more likely, as a man, to be a victim of rape than be falsely accused.
But anonymity also has other implications. In cases of “stranger rape” anonymity prevents you as the victim, knowing anything about your alleged offender. It could mean living with the knowledge that he has raped someone else – because you weren’t able to warn them of potential danger, even if you wanted to.
Anonymity for victims is essential. Disclosing the often incredibly sensitive details about your rape is not an easy task. Knowing that that information could become public knowledge if a court case goes ahead, is not something that any victim takes lightly. Protecting them from the details being disclosed and anyone knowing about them is vital, especially when many will still be coming to terms with their trauma.
There are already provisions available for those who make malicious allegations. They can be named, and imprisoned. But for many cases that are not followed up by police it is not because they doubt the word of victims, but purely because they don’t feel that cases are strong enough to obtain a conviction.
With 85,000 women and at least 10,000 men becoming victims in the UK each year (and this is known to be the tip of the iceberg), we have to accept that there are a large number of men who are committing these crimes. It is time to stop arguing about anonymity and concentrate on eradicating rape and sexual violence.