No room for compromise in debate over 'date rape': Mary Braid looks at the arguments that have polarised public opinion

SINCE Mary Koss, an American psychologist, coined 'date rape' to describe a social phenomena in 1985, the debate over rape has become even more polarised.

Her wider definition of rape, to include verbal coercion - some say old-fashioned persuasion - and the presence of drugs and drink in sexual encounters, has led to claims in the United States that more than one in four female students have been victims of rape.

Ms Koss is credited with kicking off some ludicrously mechanical attempts to regulate sexual encounters on politically correct campuses throughout the US.

When it comes to discussing date rape, it is as if to concede any shades of grey when it comes to consent is to lose the argument.

Last night Siwan Hayward, founder of the national No Means No anti-rape campaign, said that, despite the verdict in favour of Austen Donnellan, she still believed his accuser. 'Women don't lie about rape,' she said.

Groups such as Women Against Rape insist that if a woman feels she has been raped, then she has been - apparently dispensing with the need for any courtroom examination.

In the US there is already a backlash against the Koss camp. Its opponents include female academics, who consider themselves feminists.

American academics such as Katie Roiphe claim the definition of rape has been widened so much that it now devalues its true horror and meaning. She argues that the trend is essentially anti-feminist because it portrays women as weak and powerless, always at the mercy of more intelligent men.

Jayne Aldridge, co-ordinator of the No Means No campaign at London University, believes such criticism betrays the cause.

'There is a backlash at the moment against rape. It is being widely suggested that women are now calling rape after sexual experiences they consented to, but did not particularly enjoy. That is simply rubbish.'

No Means No was founded after Judge Raymond Dean's comment that, when a woman says 'no', she does not always mean 'no'. Ms Aldridge said yesterday that judging by some recent comments by male students concerning the Donnellan case 'we have a lot more work to do'.

Ms Aldridge believes the treatment Mr Donnellan's accuser received in court will deter women from coming forward. She believes there was too much concentration on her sexual behaviour and character. The only point, she insisted, was whether the woman gave consent.

Last year, No Means No questioned 1,700 female students throughout Britain using the definition of rape in British law, which relies on consent. Ms Aldridge said it found that 10 per cent of women reported being victims of rape. A further 10 per cent said they had been victims of attempted rape. Of those who claimed they had been raped, 84 per cent said the rapist had been someone they knew. Fewer than 2 per cent had reported the incidents to the police.

Ms Aldridge insisted that confidentiality and fair treatment were crucial if women were to come forward with complaints. 'It all depends on what the woman wants. She may not want to go to court and have her view trashed. The rate of conviction for rape is appalling. Many women say going to court is like being raped all over again.'

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Rafa Benitez Real Madrid unveiling: New manager full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

Benitez full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

There were tears in the former Liverpool manager’s eyes as he was unveiled as Real Madrid coach. But the Spaniard knows he must make tough decisions if he is to succeed
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?