Less than 6% of rapes reported in England lead to convictions — and that's out of as few as 10% of rapes that are reported in the first place. I'm no mathematician, but the good people at the Washington Post have underscore the fact that those statistics are deplorable. The well-researched article by the Post's Mary Jordan is bookended by the tale of a 15-year-old London teen who was raped by a 28-year-old neighbor. Her mother immediately called the police, and yet it took several months for the police to question the rapist. The man was eventually set free, although he had a previous criminal record; the judge in the case said, he was "in a way a man of good character" because his prior convictions were non-violent. This is clearly not an isolated event, as a 2005 report commissioned by UK police described a "culture of skepticism" surrounding rape cases. And the horrors don't end there!
The <em Post describes a case last year in which a 24-year-old man who was convicted of raping a 10-year-old was given only 2 years in jail because the child was "dressed provocatively." There are some British officials who are trying to stem the tide of injustice. Tory leader David Cameron called for tougher sentences for rapists and according to the BBC, Cameron said, "Studies have shown that as many as one in two young men believe there are some circumstances when it's okay to force a woman to have sex. To my mind, this is an example of moral collapse." Solicitor General Vera Baird tells the WaPo that "There will never be proper female equality and appropriate dignity afforded to one-half of the population if it's possible to rape somebody and get away with it."
But then there are jerks like MP John Redwood, who think date rape should be tried differently than stranger rape because date rape isn't really a big deal. A quarter to a third of Britons apparently agree with Redwood: according to the WaPo, they think the victim is responsible for her rape if she is drunk or wearing "sexy" clothes.
It's not as if the United States is ideal, as 13% of rapes are convicted here, but Britain's conviction record is currently a national embarrassment. There have been a few positive developments in recent months: prosecutors are now allowed to interview victims prior to the case (previously, they didn't meet until the day of the trial). But these improvements are piddling when they're taking place within a larger culture that, however quietly, condones this kind of violence against women.
In Britain, Rape Cases Seldom Result In A Conviction [Washington Post]
Cameron Urges Tougher Rape Laws [BBC]