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Scarlett Nation » Justice » Stop the presses: MAN NOT A RAPIST

Stop the presses: MAN NOT A RAPIST

Michael Le Vell, the actor who plays Kevin Webster on Coronation Street, has been completely exonerated of rape. Given the tabloid splash made by the original accusation, I felt obliged to do my bit and spread the word. And, while I’m here, I thought I’d make the case for granting anonymity to those accused of rape.

Let me be perfectly clear, I’m not suggesting the victim is lying. Anonymity for the accused doesn’t suggest the victim is lying, any more than anonymity for the victims suggests they should be ashamed of themselves. But if it were unquestionable that the victim was always 100% accurate we needn’t bother with a trial at all. There are a tiny minority of accusers that are lying, but there are more victims who make an honest mistake when they ID their attacker, or who weren’t able to make an identification and are trusting that the police got it right.

And for people falsely accused of a sex attack there are harms that don’t exist for those accused of other crimes. The fact is, sex crimes are just different to other crimes. We have already accepted that by granting anonymity to the victims where we don’t in the cases of other crimes. As unreasonable as it is, there is a stigma associated with sex crime for both the accused and the victims. The falsely accused have to live with this in spite of having done nothing wrong.

For one, as the Michael De Vell case shows, a rape accusation gets far more attention than an exoneration does. And even if the innocent verdict does make the news, it doesn’t necessarily mean your reputation is restored. Because of the nature of these crimes, it often comes down to one persons word against another’s. It makes it hard to prove a person guilty, but equally hard to prove them innocent. As a result, there is a ‘no smoke without fire’ attitude, where people are more likely to be described as ‘having got away with it.’ This means a negative impact on your future career, relationships, even your personal safely – is it ever right to levy these additional punishments on a person our justice system has found innocent?

I know that naming the accused can sometimes encourage other victims to come forward, and I don’t want to deter people from reporting assault. However, it can’t be fair to put an innocent person through all of the above to make life easier for the police – we should make it easier to report rape without sacrificing the falsely accused. Moreover, offering anonymity to the accused may actually, in other ways, help with that.

The fewer details that are reported, the more confident a victim may feel about remaining anonymous. A woman could accuse her husband of rape without her neighbours reading his name the paper and asking her about it. Someone could accuse a celebrity of rape and not have an army of fans supporting the attacker. And, with no way of damaging the accused until they’re found guilty, there is far less motive to make a false claim. This in itself might mean victims are spared the indignity of being accused of lying.

Fair enough, if they’re found guilty, let the whole world know exactly who you’re locking up. But if people really are innocent until proven guilty, then we shouldn’t be punishing innocent people.

Written by

Co-founder and contributor to Scarlett Nation.

Filed under: Justice · Tags: , , ,

  • October13a

    Well said!