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.

 

 

 

Rape by stepfather -- she fought to get it to court but it was thrown out by the judge

Success story

A recent case of rape in the family we were involved with from beginning to end illustrates the sexism, and when we are women of colour the racism, women face. As a result of threatening to report a decade of rape and assault by her adoptive father, the victim, who is originally from Africa, was threatened with deportation. The rapist, a powerful and well connected head of the family, who had previously worked for social services, reported her to the Home Office claiming she was an impostor and provided a fraudulent death certificate. Despite a sympathetic woman police officer who took the woman’s initial statement, the CID officer in charge had little interest in getting justice for the victim since "when the case is over the Home Officer will deport her anyway". They refused to investigate the forged death certificate and despite clear contradictions in the man’s statements, they initially refused to interview relatives who would confirm who the woman was, and her position of total dependence within the family (she spoke no English and had no money of her own for many years), which explained why she hadn’t escaped earlier. We had to thrust evidence into their hands and even then, only brief statements were taken, in a half-hearted way, and leads not followed up.

The case came to trial twice. The first time, the CPS prosecutor was incompetent and hostile; compounding the difficulty most witnesses have speaking publicly about the sexual violence they have suffered. At the retrial, a more competent prosecutor presented the facts and took the witness through her evidence. But, she did not call the man’s ex-wife or son, who waited outside and could have confirmed the truth about the death certificate and the woman’s position in the family. Their evidence would have greatly added to the victim’s credibility. Instead the trial was thrown out by the judge on grounds of insufficient evidence. Many of the jurors felt strongly that the decision should not have been taken out of their hands without even an explanation. One of them told us, "No wonder women don’t want to report rape if this is what happens. What is that poor woman supposed to do now?"

This is not the first time that judges, renowned for sexism, act in a shocking way. But this time there was a difference. While years of campaigning against rape have not yet succeeded in getting a higher proportion of rapists prosecuted, the legal establishment is now anxious to cover its tracks. Judges who for centuries upheld the preposterous fiction that rape inside marriage is not a crime, routinely used their discretion to let victims be cross-examined about irrelevant sexual history, and allowed women’s knickers to be passed round the court room as "evidence", are sometimes less blatantly sexist. This judge didn't accuse the woman of lying, he claimed to be sympathetic as he was throwing the case out. Public outcries, court invasions, calls for biased judges to be sacked, dossiers documenting police and CPS bias have resulted in a greater acknowledgement of the problem, and more sophisticated PR.

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