Leading article: Politics, prejudice and popular culture

Share

David Cameron is right to draw attention to the issue of rape, as he did yesterday in a speech to the Conservative Women's Organisation conference. The conviction rates for the crime are truly dreadful. In 2005-06 there were 14,443 rapes reported to police in England and Wales, but just 796 convictions. This is one of the lowest "clear-up rates" in Europe.

By its nature, rape is a difficult crime to prosecute. There are rarely third-party witnesses and victims usually know their attacker. This means trials often come down to one person's word against another. But there can be no doubt that the criminal justice system ought to be performing substantially better in bringing perpetrators to justice.

The Conservative leader is also right to argue that our popular culture is not helping matters. It is now deemed socially acceptable to present women as sex objects in a way that would have caused outrage only a decade ago. The magazines, music and advertising industries are all guilty of this. The contempt heaped on women who drink by certain right-wing newspapers also helps twist perceptions. The attitude that certain women "bring it on themselves" is depressingly widespread.

Improved sex education for children, as advocated by Mr Cameron, is welcome. But the Conservative leader is wrong when he claims that "tougher sentences" are necessary. The problem with rape lies not with the deterrent, but the prosecution. The key is to get police forces to take accusations more seriously. Too many women are still not treated properly when they make a complaint at their police station. Forensic evidence is not gathered quickly enough. Sometimes complainants are even persuaded out of making an accusation.

Mr Cameron should demand better practice from the police. He should also commit his party to establishing more sexual assault referral centres, where forensic evidence can be gathered more effectively, rather than just better financial support for rape support charities.

Another major problem, which Mr Cameron failed to deal with yesterday, is juries. They are simply too inclined to acquit the accused. Jurors need better instruction from independent experts about the way rape victims are likely to behave. For instance, it can often take several days for a victim to find the courage to go to the police. That delay does not indicate a malicious accusation, as many juries erroneously conclude.

Prejudices surrounding rape should be torn down. We need a revolution in attitudes in the courtroom, the police station, and in wider society. That is the best hope we have for raising the pitiful conviction rate for this vile crime.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

After Savile, we must devote our energies to stopping the child abuse taking place now

Mary Dejevsky
A ‘hugely irritated’ Sir Malcolm Rifkind on his way home from Parliament on Monday  

Before rushing to criticise Malcolm Rifkind, do you know how much being an MP can cost?

Isabel Hardman
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower