This is the joint website of  Women Against Rape and Black Women's Rape Action Project. Both organisations are based on self-help and provide support, legal information and advocacy. We campaign for justice and protection for all women and girls, including asylum seekers, who have suffered sexual, domestic and/or racist violence.

WAR was founded in 1976. It has won changes in the law, such as making rape in marriage a crime, set legal precedents and achieved compensation for many women. BWRAP was founded in 1991. It focuses on getting justice for women of colour, bringing out the particular discrimination they face. It has prevented the deportation of many rape survivors. Both organisations are multiracial.

 

 

 

Complaint re 9 Oct Loose Women TV Programme

Dear Loose Women

I am absolutely disgusted by Loose Women’s interview with Paul Fensome on 9 October. The programme was presented by four women and its audience is mainly women, but this interview undermined women. It was out of touch and lacked balance.

There are four main reasons why I strongly object to the way the issue was handled.

1. The context: More and more cases of violence against women and children are becoming public, but 85% of victims do not report, and the conviction rates for reported domestic violence and rape (5% and 6%) are outrageous – that is the real scandal, not false allegations. The events in Rotherham show how urgent this is. While the Rotherham rapists were not investigated and most are still at large, the girls were blamed and trashed, even arrested for being drunk. Below is a petition signed by a number of organisations and individuals concerned with the trend to discredit and even criminalise rape survivors. Signatories include the Women’s Aid Federation and sexual violence advocates. Pressurised to withdraw or retract their allegations, some rape survivors are prosecuted and imprisoned. This discourages women and children from reporting, and endangers lives. To give a platform to one wrongly accused man doesn’t help women find safety or get justice.

2. The impact on victims. Prosecuting women for lying undermines women’s efforts for justice. It puts rape survivors off reporting. We know this from our users’ comments. It further deters victims who are traumatized by rape, who already fear going to the police because they will not be believed, or denied protection, or may even be prosecuted themselves. The authorities already harshly punish victims suspected of lying, and the impact is greatly magnified by the media. Your presenter claimed false allegations of rape are a ‘growing problem’, which may be some journalists’ view but is not supported by evidence from the Crown Prosecution Service which says it is just 2% of reports. Another presenter stated she is sickened by ‘women who use their sexuality and femininity’ to get back at a man. This comment was uninformed. The decision to prosecute Ms Brooker and the biased and inaccurate media coverage of the case have already damaged public perception. This is the very opposite of what needs to happen to restore any confidence in the criminal justice system.

3. Rhiannon Brooker and her family have suffered enough. We have come across many cases over the years, where dates seemed contradictory, particularly in a sustained period of violence by partners. It is often difficult for victims to remember every detail – a typical symptom of rape trauma. Mistakes and contradictions can easily be wrongly interpreted as lies. We sat through a lot of the trial, and have worked with Ms Brooker and her family over several years. You have been manipulated. Paul Fensome has already secured national publicity out of all proportion to the injury he suffered, in addition to a settlement from the police of thousands of pounds for wrongful imprisonment – equivalent to £1,000 for each day in prison. For example, his claim in the interview to be uninterested in the length of Ms Brooker’s sentence is a lie – after Ms Brooker got 3.5 years in prison (separating her from her breastfeeding baby), the Attorney General appealed for an even higher sentence, and Mr Fensome travelled about 100 miles to London to watch the appeal. They lost as the Appeal Court refused to increase the sentence. The Shadow Attorney General had opposed the appeal.

4. Anonymity for men: Two of your presenters brought in the issue of anonymity for men accused of rape, reporting that there is a growing lobby among lawyers for them to be anonymous until charged, but the presenters made invisible the growing lobby against this proposal, including from the police as it would hamper investigations. Paul Fensome said on air that he wasn’t named in the media when he was accused, so it wasn’t even relevant to the interview. This is cheap journalism at women’s expense.

The whole item undermined women in general and vulnerable rape survivors in particular, and promoted the myth that women often lie about violence. This is particularly unacceptable in a programme aimed at women. Why don’t you invite Women Against Rape to present the other side of these arguments? For example, you could interview one of us who was prosecuted herself for harassment while her rapist walked free.

Lisa Longstaff, Women Against Rape
 

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