Friday, June 7, 2013
Rape, AIDS, and Cockwombling
No, I don't know what it means, but being labelled a "cockwomble" is the mildest of the insults heaped upon my head of late. It sounds quite friendly though, doesn't it? Never have I been so determined to ask people to think – and never have I seen such clear reasons why they need to.
Recently I have been out and about on Twitter and bumping into stranger than usual folk. Regular readers will appreciate that I do challenge the status quo around all things criminal justice and that do so for very good reasons. Chief amongst these is that when we call for the full weight of the State to be brought down on individuals, we should do so with great care and with an eye to that most nebulous (and fragile) of ideas, Justice.
And I write with some consideration to the fact that criminal justice is not an abstract, it is the aggregation of the pain of a vast number of individuals. Equally, I know that when some issues are discussed then people engage with their gut long before they engage their brain. Even so, I was taken aback by the response to my dabbling in sexual politics and the place of sexual offences in the panoply of wickedness.
It began when I saw a campaign headed "I believe her", propagating the view that all rape victims should be believed. I assumed even the dimmest or most ideological could glimpse the flaw in that idea – sometimes an accusation is false. To simply "believe" is to throw out the justice process, essentially renders the trial process pointless. Thought everyone would appreciate my concern.... Well. They didn't. People – mostly women – popped up from the wilder regions of the ideological landscape and accused me of being a rape-apologist and a danger to women.
It always fascinates me that when you question someones position, they often assume that you hold the opposite view to them. In questioning "I believe", therefore, in their minds I was coming from the perspective of a crazy rapist. Feeling massively insulted I did explain that surely a campaign to have all allegations properly investigated would be a far better – and just – proposition. Alas, to no avail. The abuse flowed freely – never from me – and being said to look as if I have AIDS was one of the milder comments.
As an experience, this was something I found shocking. And I've spent my life in a rather robust environment. It's not as if I'm a stranger to harsh words..... Although, in the prison environment, if you were to suggest someone was a nonce – wrong un – sex offender – then it was a declaration of war. You substantiate it, withdraw it instantly, or be prepared for a beating. It's a very, very serious thing to say. Not on the web, it seems, where being nonced-off is a mere flip across the keyboard.
Stupidly, instead of engaging and exploring the issues I was blasted by this wall of ideology. Some woman cheerfully told me that they hated all men, and that all men were either rapists or rape-condoners. Imagine a guy saying something like that? It was a mindset which I couldn't fathom and which wasn't interested in exploring my views.
Rape victims can get treated shockingly badly by the police and the whole criminal justice process. Some of this can and should be addressed, with better interviewing techniques and more professional investigations. Some suffering may be inevitable, no matter what our sympathy – in the trial process, for instance. If you are going to accuse a man of such a terrible crime as rape, you need to prove your case, and be challenged on your evidence.
For the women who attacked me, this was inflammatory stuff of the highest order. Due to trials, some men – "rapists" – "got away with it". That the alternative seems to be to just throw men into prison on a nod escaped them. By even attempting to explore these nuances and balances, I became a rape-apologist. Period. Either bought into their views lock, stock or I was on the side of the abuser. To them it's simple. That my actual interest is "justice" for all involved is a subtlety of thought and intent that no one wanted to hear. Ideology smothered thought – the most dangerous of situations.
No sooner had the bruises from that begin to fade, some damn teacher was reported as being cleared to teach again despite having being caught with indecent images of kids ("child porn" is now a forbidden phrase, seems it implies consent....). All hell broke loose. Most seemed to want him chucked in prison – he received a caution – and never allowed near kids. There were knees jerking all over the internet.
I asked two questions. What useful purpose would be served by throwing him in prison? And why assume he's an actual danger to kids? Because – hold onto your hats – sex offenders come in a multipilicity of shades. And evidence shows that many who use images of abused kids (which this wasn't) stay at that level, they never commit "contact offences". So – did this guy present a risk to his potential pupils? For attempting to open the door to this discussion, the ex MP Louise Mensch has called me an apologist and defender of paedophiles.
Child protection, rape, all crimes are horrible. Instinctive responses may not be the most fruitful ones. We need to talk about these things – for the sake of the very victims people claim to care about.