Frontline personnel at Rape Crisis England & Wales say that the police continue to behave unfairly toward rape complainants.
Surveys done by journalists at The Guardian have found that 8 out of 10 women are met with demands to hand over their phones and reveal ALL personal details, with no regard for confidentiality. This causes many victims to avoid reporting their harrowing experiences, because they know it’s so likely they’ll be additionally violated by a serious loss of privacy.
Staff at crisis centres say that data taken from phones and used against victims include details of previous sexual history. This sounds to me as if women have no right to any kind of sex life at all without being regarded as promiscuous or worthless. Do the police really think that 50% of all adults – that is, the female half – should remain celibate? There have been cases where women’s phones are mined for personal information going back decades, and then being used by perpetrators’ defence teams to discredit the complainant.
It almost sounds like something that would be done in the nineteenth century and earlier, but we are talking about 2019! Why is this still allowed to happen? Is it because the majority of police officers are men? Is it because these men remain culturally imbued with outdated attitudes towards women? Is it because they are not provided with sensitivity training?
Or is it because police forces across the UK don’t take rape seriously? Because in fact, Guardian journalist Caelainn Barr,who wrote and co-wrote the linked articles below, also tells of a case of a raped 12-year-old boy whose perpetrator admitted to the crime and an STD. Yet the police still took the child’s phone.
As well, there does not appear to be a centralized police procedure across the UK. A victim in one city can be treated very differently from a victim in another. And a rape complainant’s phone information can be held indefinitely: this means medical records, social services data, counselling or educational records, work history and so on. Is it right that this is deemed necessary?
Let’s face it, this ill-treatment of victims does not only take place in Britain. I’ve seen newspaper and TV reports in Canada and the US that illustrate the same unjust and callous behaviour. Not all the time. But too much of the time.
And is it surprising that so many rapists get away with their crimes because their targets are too afraid of being violated again, this time by the police and the courts?
Aamna Mohdin and Caelainn Barr
UPDATE JANUARY 30, 2020