13:37, September 24 65 0 theguardian.com

2018-09-24 13:37:07
Wide awoke  
 Why are we so desperate to believe men in rape cases?

Young men are, quite literally, getting away with rape. For those still at the stage of debating the limits of “believe all women”, or whether now is the right time to run a New York Review of Books special titled The Fall of Men, consider this stark fact.

According to figures released to the Guardian by the Crown Prosecution Servicefollowing an FOI submitted by Labour MP Ann Coffey, less than a third of young men prosecuted for rape in England and Wales are convicted. And remember how few rapes are reported in the first place, how few lead to arrests, and how few make it to trial. This conviction rate has not increased in the past five years.

So in spite of the juggernaut of #MeToo testimony and its latest incarnation, #WhyIDidn’tReport, it is business as usual in our courts and out here in our rough, unjust world. Women are still not being believed. Men continue to be given a free pass to everything from a woman’s body to a Supreme Court nomination.

Why are men aged 18-24 being protected by the law? Prosecutors believe jurors are particularly reluctant to punish young men at the start of their lives. Think about this for a minute – of how it demonstrates rather than describes the depth of the crisis. The future promise of a young man’s life is held in higher regard than the past, present and future of a woman whose life has already been marked by great trauma. What a man might be matters more than what a woman has been brutally forced to become.

Other reasons for not convicting young men include a reluctance to find them guilty of date rape or to view evidence through the lens of stereotype. Both of these, really, come down to believing men over women. Then we arrive at the continuing dominance of rape myths such as the grossly irresponsible media focus on false allegations of rape, which has probably been perpetuated more post-#MeToo. The truth is that most women don’t report rape at all.

Toxic masculinity, as the writer Tim Winton notes, is a burden to men as well as women, and the ages of 18-24 are probably when its poison is most virulent. “We forget or simply don’t notice the ways in which men, too, are shackled by misogyny,” he writes. “It narrows their lives. Distorts them. [And] a man in manacles doesn’t fully understand the threat he poses to others.”

When our criminal justice system also fails to understand this threat, we are in crisis. It is time to talk less about whether we should believe women and more about why we are so desperate, from the outset, to believe men.

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