Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Carnal Knowledge

I bought a very battered copy of Sue Lees' book Carnal Knowledge some time ago and picked it up again last night just to have a quick look at it. But once you start reading it grabs you and you have to keep going. She raises some very interesting points about rape and the way it is dealt with in the justice system. The revised edition of the book was published in 2002 and many of the fears she expresses in the first few chapters have actually happened.

She was worried that by referring to rapes where perpetrator and victim were known to each other as 'date rapes' they would come to seem less serious than 'stranger rape'. She was also concerned at the trend she could see developing of treating the accused as somehow the victim of predatory females - especially if they are acquitted. The view was growing even then that any acquittal should automatically lead to the prosecution of the person who made the complaint in the first place. Just because someone was acquitted doesn't mean the accusation is false or made with malicious intent.

The law was changed many years ago to stop the victim's previous sexual history being brought up at the trial but there was still room for a judge's discretion in the case and on many occasions it is allowed as evidence. On the other hand the defendant's previous sexual history is in most cases not allowed as evidence. There are still only a few cases where more than one alleged rape is dealt with in the same trial.

The author suggests that some rapists may have changed their modus operandi in that they now take the trouble to get to know their intended victim slightly before striking knowing that any previous acquaintance between them and their victim lessens their chances of conviction.

I've only read three chapters so far but it is frightening stuff.

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