Letter: Women's 'responsibility' for being attacked

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The Independent Online
Sir: Contrary to some of your correspondents, I deplore the sentiments expressed by Angela Lambert (23 August). Angus Diggle deserves no sympathy. He has been prosecuted and convicted of a very serious crime. To suggest that his victim somehow brought the attack upon herself, by spending the evening with him and then offering him the simple courtesy of a bed for the night, is nonsense. If a man chooses to batter the woman with whom he lives, or tries to rape a woman sleeping in the same house, he is committing a serious criminal offence and must face the consequences.

The insidious myth that women 'ask for it' is the reason why women face such inordinate difficulty getting crimes of sexual assault, or domestic violence, treated seriously. I expect that in this case the Crown Prosecution Service felt impelled to prosecute because the victim was a lawyer and there were two witnesses. Had she been a woman in a council flat who invited a man back after an evening in the pub together, and there were no witnesses, the CPS would not have touched her case with a bargepole.

Another insidious myth, that women cry 'rape' after being disappointed by sex, underlies the offensive corroboration rule. This requires judges trying a case of sexual assault to tell the jury it is dangerous to convict on the uncorroborated evidence of the complainant. Recent research shows no convincing evidence that women make false allegations of rape (Lees & Gregory, Rape and Sexual Assault: a Study of Attrition, July 1993). Yet the need for independent, corroborative evidence of rape is the cause of many rapes going unprosecuted, and many trials resulting in acquittals.

Both the Law Commission and the Royal Commission on Criminal Justice have recommended the abolition of the corroboration rule. It is high time the Home Secretary acted.

Yours sincerely,

BARBARA HEWSON

Barrister

London, WC1

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