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.

 

 

 

Report of Public Trial: The rape of justice – who’s guilty?

Three judges at the Trial
Three judges at the Trial

On Saturday 16th February, rape survivors and their supporters packed a London church to charge those who are supposed to protect us -- the police, Crown Prosecution Service, judges, ministers and immigration authorities -- with the “rape of justice”.

By Bridget Symonds and Lisa Longstaff, Women Against Rape. Published in Women's News, Ireland's feminist magazine, May/June 2008
Photos by Crossroads Women's Photo Collective

Nearly 30 rape survivors, several young survivors’ mothers, one husband, and a representative of Iraqi women took the “witness” stand in front of a “prosecutor” and three “judges” from Women Against Rape, Black Women’s Rape Action Project and Legal Action for Women, to give their devastating testimonies. The audience acted as jury.

Each witness named who they were putting on trial and then gave their reasons why these individuals and the institutions they represent were responsible for lack of justice and for the despicable conviction rate which stands at less than 6%.

Formal “court summonses” had been sent to the accused, and their faces gazed back at the audience from a projection on the stage: Met Commissioner Ian Blair, Solicitor General Vera Baird, Women and Equality Minister Harriet Harman, notorious immigration judge Warren L. Grant, and a number of local crown prosecutors and police officers. Woman after woman called them to account for being, in the words of former New York prosecutor Alice Vachss, “collaborators” with rapists, leaving them to rape again.

Survivors described how the police had failed to collect evidence, or lost it, and the CPS refused to prosecute. They described blatant sexism, racism and disability prejudice, and the deep rooted stereotypes women are constantly battling against such as the idea that if a woman is drunk, has a “reputation”, or works in the sex industry then she is “asking for it”. Many detailed how women and girls are put on “on trial”: discouraged from reporting, humiliated in court, and even accused of lying and ending up in prison. Yet by reporting violent men women are performing a public service and preventing further violence. Surely we should be encouraged to come forward and be treated with respect.

One witness who works for the police testified how a male officer had raped her, and the local force had investigated their own colleague. “My MP said he did not want to get involved for fear of ‘upsetting’ the force and the judge eventually threw my case out, calling me a ‘whore’ and saying that my injuries were ‘self-inflicted’.”

A Jamaican mother accused the police of raping her son in a cell. This led to her arrest after she filed charges and eventually she ended up in a removal centre, threatened with deportation.

A mother whose partner had for years raped her daughter was advised to “get counselling, this will never come to court”. Another mother said her daughter’s rapist is still working -- as a teacher.

The Iraqi woman indicted the US and British governments for genocide and rape. The sexual assault and other torture exposed at Abu Ghraib was not an exception – under the occupation the rape of women and children in prisons and elsewhere was widespread though largely hidden.

A sex worker who brought the first successful private prosecution for rape with support from WAR, LAW and the English Collective of Prostitutes (ECP) spoke powerfully about the precedent this had set. Another member of the ECP clarified that consent is always the issue and that feminists who want to criminalise clients are diverting attention and resources from rape and endangering sex workers.

An Iraqi woman indicted the US and British governments for genocide and rape. She alleged that the sexual assault and other torture exposed at Abu Ghraib was not an exception – that under the occupation the rape of women and children in prisons and elsewhere was widespread though largely hidden.

While all the defendants declined to attend, they did get their time on the stand as the organisers performed monologues taken from actual cases. These hard hitting commentaries excellently performed added some comic relief at the expense of the authorities, reinforcing what so many women had been brave enough to tell.

“His Honour Lord Justice Judge Marquis de Sade” personified the deeply ingrained sexism in court: “You have to remember the likeliest thing is 1) she asked for it; 2) she was too drunk to know what she was doing; or 3) he had a lingering right, since they used to be married.” Solicitor General “Viola Blurred” noted: “People say there’s a double standard in investigations of rape compared to other crimes. Actually I said that myself in Parliament in 2006.”

Painful as it was, many said afterwards how empowering it had been to put their experiences together with others, to name names, and to speak out about exhausting months or years of struggling for justice.

The trial marked the 30th anniversary of Women Against Rape, and referred to what had been won in so many years of campaigning, including the 1991 law recognising rape in marriage as a crime, and a growing acknowledgement that no one deserves to be raped regardless of background, race, job, age, disability, what they are wearing or how much they have drunk.

As addiction specialists say, the first crucial step to change is admitting that you have a problem. Assistant Police Commissioner John Yates is finally beginning to admit that if they investigated promptly and thoroughly, convictions would go up. But Solicitor General Vera Baird still claims that the outrages perpetrated by the CPS are all in the past.

The Trial made such denial unsustainable. The jury found all the accused guilty as charged, and voted that they should be disciplined and if necessary lose their jobs. Until then, nothing will change.

To address the issue of holding to account the people who are supposed to implement the law, a new petition was launched, End the Rape of Justice. SIGN ONLINE www.petitiononline.com/WAR08/petition.html And women were invited to a series of legal workshops, to be held by WAR.

See Anna Sussman’s excellent article about WAR’s Rape Trial and women raped in the military, ‘Avoiding the 'inevitable', posted 15 Feb 2008 on The Guardian website http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/anna_sussman/2008/02/avoiding_the_in....
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