Don’t Let Brooker’s Case Turn You Into A Victim Blamer

Copyright: Reuters

Copyright: Reuters

Zahra Wynne talks about rape accusations and how they are damaging to sexual abuse victims.

This myth leads to around 60% of victims not reporting assault

Rhiannon Brooker, a 30-year-old law graduate from Bristol, was recently jailed for three and a half years for perverting the course of justice – in this instance, falsely accusing her boyfriend of rape. A mother of one, who accused her partner of repeatedly raping and beating her, allegedly made the claims in order to receive extenuating circumstances when she failed her bar exams. Unsurprisingly, there’s been a lot of discussion of the nature of sexual assault claims following the case.

This myth leads to around 60% of victims not reporting assault, according to RAINN, because of the fear of not being believed and the fear of the vilification they might face if they’re accused of lying. If she truly is guilty, Brooker not only greatly wronged her partner, but she did a terrible disservice to all victims of sexual assault out there. Hundreds of thousands of people are sexually assaulted every year, and there certainly isn’t a media circus in every instance.

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Source: RAINN

The intense coverage surrounding Brooker’s case creates a culture of fear, a fear that leads victims to stay quiet following their assault and leads to a dangerous doubt when people do come forward. Most sexual assaults are committed to somebody known by the victim, which can make it even harder to report and to be believed. Marital rape itself wasn’t criminalised until very recently, and there are still many people in society who can’t fathom how rape can factor into relationships.What’s so damaging about this? Yes, it ruins the accused’s life, that can’t be argued with. But let’s not forget about the countless lives that are continually ruined not only as a result of sexual assault, but also as a result of rape culture itself and the dangerous myth that people ‘cry rape’.

Brooker’s conviction is not a case for withholding the identity of the accused. It’s not a case for doubting victim’s statements, and it’s certainly not a case to trivialise sexual assault and add to the rape culture that is already so pervasive in our society. For every person that supposedly ‘cries’ rape, there are thousands and thousands of people who are suffering in silence every single day because of the consequences of cases like Brooker’s. To ignore that and twist it into victim blaming is to wrong every victim of sexual assault.

Most sexual assaults are committed to somebody known by the victim…

There will always be a few who are exceptions and who do take advantage of the justice system. However, this minority of cases has led to only one in ten people going to the police following a sexual assault. People like Brooker and those who claim that the case is ‘proof’ that rape is something that is ‘cried’ proliferate the fear, shame and uncertainty that comes along with reporting rape. If this case reinforces the myth that false rape accusations are the norm, this only serves to reinforce rape culture. It focuses on the absolute minority of cases that may be false and glosses over the systematic trauma and suffering that is felt daily by victims of rape.

What are your thoughts? Did you know about that statistic? Let us know @rifemag

If you or someone you know has been the victim of a sexual assault no matter how minor it is, contact the police. You can also receive advice and counselling from SARSAS or Bristol Crisis Support for Women. There is a great set of tips and advice here too on the Bristol Against Violence and Abuse website.