Category Archives: sexual assault

The Myth About Rape Myths

I’m inspired to write this post because I have, for some time, been awaiting publication of research by Professor Cheryl Thomas of UCL on rape trial juries and associated matters. I find it has been published – back in November 2020 – but not for us plebs as yet.

To avoid burdening the thrust of this post with the rape statistics themselves, I relegate a review of them to the Appendix, below.

The salient point is that prosecutions, and convictions, for rape have been falling. Some people might regard this as a good thing – just as some of us would regard the falling rate of domestic abuse as a good thing. But not the feminists, who require more prosecutions – far more – and all those prosecuted must be convicted: to be accused is to be guilty. Not that there is any shortage of men in prison for sexual offences, namely around 13,500 men, accounting now for 18% of the prison population. This number has been climbing steadily for many years, having doubled since 2005.

Readers may recall a petition to the Government in 2018: “All jurors in rape trials to complete compulsory training about rape myths”. The petitioners claimed that,

Research shows that jurors accept commonly held rape myths resulting in many incorrect not guilty verdicts. Rapists are walking free from court, although evidence is robust.”

And that,

Research by Rape Crisis & Alison Saunders, Director of Public Prosecutions, finds that jurors often accept rape myths & thus acquit rapists who are in fact guilty. 66% of jurors do not understand judges’ legal directions which attempt to dispel rape myths, but fail. Jurors need proper rape myth training prior to & throughout trials.”

Leaving aside that Alison Saunders is hardly one’s first choice if the objective is to bolster credibility…The petitioners’ claims were followed by three links, as if to material reporting the ostensible “research”. Not so. All the links merely list the supposed rape myths (e.g., this one); none provide any evidence whatsoever that there is widespread public belief in them.

There is no such research.

I can be pretty confident about that for two reasons. Firstly, had there been any, it would certainly have been linked.

More fundamentally, though, to support the contention regarding rape trial jurors’ views it would be necessary to interview such jurors. This is problematic because jurors are prohibited from discussing cases. Special dispensation would be required to permit jurors’ to answer questions put to them by specifically authorised researchers. To-date the only researcher granted this permission in England is Professor Cheryl Thomas. Hence my interest in what she would report.

Her report is here: The 21st century jury: contempt, bias and the impact of jury service, Criminal Law Review (11) pp. 987-1011. You will be disappointed to find that you cannot access it, and not only due to a paywall. It is restricted to staff within UCL Discovery until 2nd November 2021. (This is likely because it has been published in the law journals which need to justify their exorbitant subscriptions before it is made available to the hoi polloi). My knowledge of its contents comes entirely from a brief review by Joshua Rozenberg QC. I’ll get to that shortly.

“Training” juries prior to trial, which the petition requests, is a terribly disturbing suggestion. We know who will do the “training”, those whom the establishment consider “experts” in the subject. It would subvert the purpose of an independent jury, namely that the accused be judged by his peers: ordinary untainted citizens. Any “education” prior to the trial is prejudicial to this ideal, even if it were of benign motivation. It would not be of benign motivation – it would be motivated by the objective of gaining more convictions, not a more accurate verdict. As just one example, what if the jury were told, as they certainly would be, that “false allegations of rape are extremely rare”? If the jurors believed it, the verdict would be assured.

Those who interpret any not-guilty verdict in a rape trial as the jury’s error have also called for juries to be scrapped entirely in rape trials, for example Bindel, 2016 and MP Ann Coffey. The debate in Parliament on the matter in 2018 was not a debate but feminist MPs agreeing with each other. Coffey also suggested “specialist rape courts” and referred to juries being “reluctant to convict young men”. With 24 times as many men as women in prison, with the number of men in prison for sex offences increasing yearly despite smaller volumes of cases – what planet is she on?

Readers may recognise the name Cheryl Thomas. She has previous in respect of upsetting the feminist position on rape juries. In her 2010 review of this subject, (Thomas, 2010), she concluded that, contrary to popular belief and previous official reports, juries in rape trials convict more often than they acquit. In 2010 Professor Thomas also concluded that,

‘Jury conviction rates for rape vary according to the gender and age of the complainant, with high conviction rates for some female complainants and low conviction rates for some male complainants. This challenges the view that juries’ failure to convict in rape cases is due to juror bias against female complainants.

In other words it is men, not women, who get short-changed by the justice system when complaining about rape. In Tables 19.4a-c of my book I compare conviction rates for male and female complainants (of all ages), data which is fully consistent with Thomas’s conclusion. She also concludes,

Juries are not primarily responsible for the low conviction rate on rape allegations.’

And so to Professor Thomas’s latest research which was commissioned by the senior judiciary specifically to respond to the 2018 petition. What I report is brought to us by Joshua Rozenberg QC. He reminds us that all judges in the Crown Court are provided with guidance on the issues specific to rape cases. Judges have been directing juries on rape myths and stereotypes for more than a decade. In respect of the petition’s claims regarding jurors’ widespread belief in the “rape myths”, Thomas was scathing…

At the time of the petition there had been no research in England and Wales with real jurors on the issue of whether they accepted commonly held rape myths or understood judges’ directions on such myths. This meant that the petition’s claim that research showed jurors accepted commonly held rape myths and did not understood judges’ directions on these myths could not have been correct.”

That’s academic speak for “lying toerags”.

What Thomas actually found was,

Hardly any jurors believe what are often referred to as widespread myths and stereotypes about rape and sexual assault. The overwhelming majority of jurors do not believe that rape must leave bruises or marks, that a person will always fight back when being raped, that dressing or acting provocatively or going out alone at night is inviting rape, that men cannot be raped or that rapes will always be reported immediately. The small proportion of jurors who do believe any of these myths or stereotypes amounts to less than one person on a jury [of 12].”

Consistent with Thomas’s 2010 research, Rozenberg writes,

Existing research showed that juries convict in rape cases more often than they acquit, Thomas explained. The jury conviction rate in rape cases is higher than it is for other serious crimes such as attempted murder, grievous bodily harm and threatening to kill.”

It is interesting to compare coercive control in the domestic abuse context with the MO of feminism society-wide. The constant repetition of the claim that “we” believe the ostensible rape myths is akin to gaslighting. You don’t believe them yourself, and you’re fairly sure most people you know don’t either – but you begin to doubt whether maybe the infamous teeming hordes of deplorables are the problem. No, it’s an invention. It springs from the darker recesses of the psyches of our accusers. It does not come from a desire for justice, or even a desire to protect women. It comes from a blood-lust to punish men, for being men. What lies behind this is insatiable prejudice.

There are myths about rape, though. One is that we live in a rape culture. Another is that women’s allegations are always strictly honest, including those about rape.

Appendix: Rape Prosecution and Conviction Statistics

Actually I will not be giving you rape statistics here, but the statistics which the CPS are pleased to refer to as rape, namely “rape flagged cases”.

Recall that the CPS is the organisation in whose VAWG reports, “Violence” does not mean violence, “Women” does not mean women, and “Girls” does not mean girls. Instead VAWG, we are told, is a category of crime and includes men and boys as victims (in some cases, e.g., modern slavery, the majority of the victims). There is absolutely no intention to mislead or to bury male victimisation, I’m sure.

Cases are “rape flagged” if an allegation of rape has been made. Such cases retain their rape-flagged status even if any ultimate prosecution is not for rape but for a lesser offence. Hence, what the CPS appear to class as “convictions for rape” are actually convictions in a case that was rape-flagged, but the conviction may not be for rape.

As a rough guide, MOJ data for true rape cases indicates that about half of the CPS’s “rape prosecutions” are not for rape, and about half of the CPS’s “rape convictions” are not for rape. Bear that in mind throughout the stats below.

I start by reproducing Table 19.2 from my book, which was based on the 2008/9 CPS VAWG report. Of cases going to jury trial, the jury convicted more often than they acquitted,

Table 1 (from TEG Table 19.2): Outcome of Rape-Flagged Prosecutions

Jury acquittal578539575
All other acquittals*908943902
Jury conviction701786788
Guilty plea1,0771,2351,230
*Almost all due to prosecution dropping the case, most often because they had no evidence to offer

More recently, taken from the 2018/19 CPS VAWG report, the data are given in Table 2, where the rows are defined as follows,

  • A = numbers referred by police to CPS for a charging decision
  • B = numbers of cases where the legal decision was to charge (excludes cases where the accused has already pleaded guilty)
  • C = numbers of cases where the legal decision was not to charge
  • D = numbers of cases “administratively finalised”. These are cases where a prosecution cannot proceed because a defendant has failed to appear at court and a bench warrant has been issued for his or her arrest; or the defendant has died, or is found unfit to plead.
  • E = completed prosecutions (includes cases where the accused has pleaded guilty)
  • F = numbers of guilty pleas
  • G = convicted at trial (approx. 93% at Crown Court, i.e., with a jury)
  • H = prosecution dropped (generally because of no evidence or insufficient evidence)
  • J = acquitted at trial
Decision to charge or not (CPS)
Prosecution or other disposal
Table 2

Note that the columns may appear inconsistent. This is because referrals from the police may not have a charging decision in the same year but in a later year, and cases with a charging decision in a given year may not become a completed case until subsequent years.  

Recall all these data relate to “rape flagged” cases, not rape cases. For comparison, the total convictions for rape in 2018 was 919 (including guilty pleas and convictions at trial).