In a new series, our law students are sharing their expert views on some of the most topical issues facing our society. Here, Claire gives her view on the legal systems in place for the United States of America and the United Kingdom’s legal systems regarding sexual assault.

Two different countries, with two different legal systems that govern the law. However one thing is evident, both have failed victims concerning crimes related to sexual offences. Whilst the law in the United States of America (USA) concerning Sexual offences is not without issues[1] like that of England and Wales.

The revolution in the USA in the 1970s[2], created additional support structures for survivors to advocate reforms to the law. In a country that prides itself above all others demonstrates there is still a misogynistic attitude towards women.[3] Fast forward to 2017 whereby high-profile actors and directors have been accused of sexual offences thus catapulting one survivors story in 2006 known as the me-too movement[4] becoming public knowledge on grounds suddenly celebrities were victims to.  The campaign encourages survivors to speak the unspoken that millions of what women around the world have been affected by. Recently in the USA a supreme court judge was accused of sexual assault whereby the president himself defended the actions of the alleged perpetrator claiming the victim needed to present information to verify her claim[5]. Without addressing the various issues this presents one of which that it is not for the president to intervene in Criminal trials[6] nor should he take the approach of ‘clean hands’ it demonstrates society still signifies the victim as the problem. According to Monique Pressley who was William Cosbys attorney in his trial of sexual assault; “……we have responsibility for the way we conduct ourselves. The only way for a woman to get the justice that she seeks — and that, if her allegation is true, that she deserves — is to come forward [soon after the crime]”.[7]

It is worrying in 2018 survivors of such crimes are still blamed, if an individual was at a cash machine and a thief asked for their bank card this would constitute as theft which begs the question why as a civilized society are we hardwired to blame victims where it concerns rape which oddly research suggests this is to promote fairness.[8]

Rape itself is not only a physically damaging but also a mentally damaging, however authorities still approach the crime with an archaic view. India after much campaigning have only just implemented changes within their laws to reflect the severity of the crime[9], until the 1990’s the England and Wales only acknowledge that this was not acceptable for a husband to Rape his wife resulting in changes to the law.[10] It is therefore evident that the law still remained archaic worryingly marital rape is partially legal within the USA within 8 states.[11]

Whilst is it commendable that women stood up and made the change they deserved the crime is not gender bias and according to Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) 138,000 men aged 16-59 also suffered sexual as of March 2017[12]

A disadvantage for male survivors are like the problems women face of victim blaming is the stereotype of ‘we just get on with it’ and the masculine approach to situations and according to Michael May ‘men deal with bigger challenges.[13] Awareness undoubtable has grown over years with the assistance of project sapphire.[14]

The misogynistic attitude of the United Kingdom brought a much-needed change within the law. In 2003 brought the enactment of the Sexual Offences Actestablished that it wasn’t just women that were sexual assaulted but men to by implementing s.1 the potential thought process could have been that men would also get the much-needed justice they deserved. However, the law failed to address the stigma attached that goes hand in hand with the crime; the embarrassment of being blamed, having to justify their sexuality or outfit. In a world where everything is publicized, filmed and the keyboard warriors it is intriguing to established why such an act of immorality is not addressed as much as those debatable memes that people share as much as they share their relationship crises for the third week running.

According to Wilton Park[15] it felt urgent action was needed to end the stigma by recognizing trigger points that entailed with a sexual offence, it maintained that lack of influence compromised the dignity of survivors. It further established that political views had a significant impact on an individual’s approach to the stigma.


[1] Tom Heyden ‘The US-UK divide on sex cases’ (BBC 13th July 2015) https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-33482619 accessed 16th November

[2] Sexual Assault in the United States ‘Evolution of Sexual Assault Criminal Justice Reform’ (Stop Violence Against Women October 17, 2018) http://www.stopvaw.org/national_sexual_assault_laws_united_states accessed 16th November 2018

[3] Lucia Binding ‘Sexist America: Most misogynistic US states revealed in major new report’ (Sky News 23rd August 2018) https://news.sky.com/story/sexist-america-most-misogynistic-us-states-revealed-in-major-new-report-11479913 accessed 17th November 2018

[4] https://metoomvmt.org Accessed 17th November 2018

[5] K Casteel, Wolfe J M Nguyen ‘What We Know About Victims Of Sexual Assault In America’ (FiveThirtyEight 2nd January 2018) https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/sexual-assault-victims accessed 18th November 2018

[6] Ben Riley-Smith ‘Donald Trump praises Brett Kavanaugh, his Supreme Court nominee, after angry denial’ (Telegraph 28th September 2018) https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/09/27/brett-kavanaugh-hearing-trumps-supreme-court-nomination-faces accessed 18th November 2018

[7] Rebecca Fishbin ‘Bill Cosby’s Lawyer Claims “Women Have Responsibility” When It Comes To Rape’ (Gothamist August 1st2015)  http://gothamist.com/2015/08/01/bill_cosbys_lawyer_claims_women_hav.php accessed November 2018

[8] Maia Szalavitz ‘Why we’re psychologically hardwired to blame the victim’ (Guardian 27th February 2018) https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/feb/27/victim-blaming-science-behind-psychology-research accessed 19th November 2018

[9] Kamala Thiagarajan’ India Reforms Its Anti-Rape Laws — To Mixed Reaction (NPR 4th May 2018) < https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2018/05/04/608516694/india-reforms-its-anti-rape-laws-to-mixed-reaction?t=1544110822254> accessed 23rd November 2018

[10] Marianne Giles, Judicial law-making in the criminal courts: the case of marital rape 1992

[11] Jon Sharman ‘Ohio bill to make marital rape illegal gets no support from state Republicans’ (Independent 27th February 2017) < https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/ohio-marital-rape-bill-illegal-wives-husbands-drug-republicans-state-greta-johnson-a7601411.html> accessed 1st December 2018

[12] ‘Sexual offences in England and Wales: year ending March 2017 https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/articles/sexualoffencesinenglandandwales/yearendingmarch2017#main-points accessed 19th November

[13] Michael May ‘Our Society inadvertently silences male victims of sexual violence’  http://www.womensequality.org.uk/day_8 accessed 2018

[14] ‘Met Police’s Sapphire rape units face shake-up’ (BBC 26th April 2013) https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-22300360 accessed 1st December 2018)

[15] https://www.wiltonpark.org.uk accessed 19th November 2018 

Bibliography

Image

Journals

Marianne Giles, Judicial law-making in the criminal courts: the case of marital rape 1992

Website

Tom Heyden ‘The US-UK divide on sex cases’ (BBC 13th July 2015) https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-33482619 accessed 16th November

Sexual Assault in the United States ‘Evolution of Sexual Assault Criminal Justice Reform’ (Stop Violence Against Women October 17, 2018) http://www.stopvaw.org/national_sexual_assault_laws_united_states accessed 16th November 2018

Lucia Binding ‘Sexist America: Most misogynistic US states revealed in major new report’ (Sky News 23rd August 2018) https://news.sky.com/story/sexist-america-most-misogynistic-us-states-revealed-in-major-new-report-11479913 accessed 17th November 2018

https://metoomvmt.org Accessed 17th November 2018

K Casteel, J Wolfe, M Nguyen ‘What We Know About Victims Of Sexual Assault In America’ (FiveThirtyEight 2nd January 2018) https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/sexual-assault-victims accessed 18th November 2018

Ben Riley-Smith ‘Donald Trump praises Brett Kavanaugh, his Supreme Court nominee, after angry denial’ (Telegraph 28th September 2018) https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/09/27/brett-kavanaugh-hearing-trumpssupreme-court-nomination-faces accessed 18th November 2018

Rebecca Fishbin ‘Bill Cosby’s Lawyer Claims “Women Have Responsibility” When It Comes To Rape’ (Gothamist August 1st2015) http://gothamist.com/2015/08/01/bill_cosbys_lawyer_claims_women_hav.php accessed November 2018

Maia Szalavitz ‘Why we’re psychologically hardwired to blame the victim’ (Guardian 27th February 2018) https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/feb/27/victim-blaming-science-behind-psychology-research accessed 19th November 2018

Kamala Thiagarajan’ India Reforms Its Anti-Rape Laws — To Mixed Reaction (NPR 4th May 2018) https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2018/05/04/608516694/india-reforms-its-anti-rape-laws-to-mixed-reaction?t=1544110822254 accessed 23rd November 2018

Jon Sharman ‘Ohio bill to make marital rape illegal gets no support from state Republicans’ (Independent 27th February 2017) https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/ohio-marital-rape-bill-illegal-wives-husbands-drug-republicans-state-greta-johnson-a7601411.html accessed 1st December 2018

Sexual offences in England and Wales: year ending March 2017 https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/articles/sexualoffencesinenglandandwales/yearendingmarch2017#main-points accessed 19th November

Michael May ‘Our Society inadvertently silences male victims of sexual violence’  http://www.womensequality.org.uk/day_8 accessed November 2018

‘Met Police’s Sapphire rape units face shake-up’ (BBC 26th April 2013) https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-22300360 accessed 1st December 2018)

https://www.wiltonpark.org.uk accessed 19th November 2018