Let’s question why men want anonymity for rape defendants

Content note: This post discusses rape, sexual assault and rape apologism

Fresh off the back of his own trial for a series of sexual offences, Nigel Evans has called for anonymity for defendants. Evans got off as his own defence put his behaviour down to “drunken overfamiliarity”, and throughout the trial he came off as at the very least a massive creep and young people are more likely to be on guard around him in the future.

Evans’s plea is one much repeated among those who seek to protect perpetrators of sexual violence. The call comes up again and again, a repeated screech. The thing is, the evidence shows that anonymity for defendants in sexual offences only protects rapists and abusers.

Between 1976 and 1988, the UK had anonymity for rape defendants. It led to a number of practical problems, including a very major and horrific one: if a rapist escaped custody, there was no way of warning the public that a dangerous rapist was on the loose. There’s also the very important fact that when a perpetrator is named, more survivors tend to come forward. Take for example, the case of John Worboys, the “Black Cab Rapist”. Once Worboys was named, a large quantity of survivors came forward, which helped to convict him. Before this, the police had dismissed allegations against Worboys from survivors who came forward individually.

The evidence shows clearly that anonymity for defendants only helps rapists and abusers, so why are men so keen to defend it? Even as I tweeted about Evans, I was besieged by men–the sort of men who thought themselves good, rational types–saying they believed in anonymity for defendants. Two equally irrational lines of argument cropped up: first, the tired old one about false allegations, and second something about equality.

The thing about false allegations is dull and takes seconds to puncture. The rate for false allegations is low, possibly lower than most other crimes. This persistent myth calls open season on rape survivors, and makes it harder for them to come forward. Clinging to this myth harms only survivors, and it is a completely irrational belief to hold. Men should be more worried about dying from alcohol poisoning than being falsely accused of rape.

As for equality, fuck that shit. The anonymity protection for survivors is a tiny nod to the fact that the system is entirely stacked against them. Anyone who thinks adding on anonymity for defendants is equality doesn’t understand what the word fucking means. They’re calling to stack the system further against survivors.

So with these two irrational arguments punctured, we need to wonder why men are so keen to protect rapists and abusers. My own personal theory is that they know in their hearts they, too, have something to hide. They remember that night where she was too drunk, they remember that boy who was far too young, they remember that time they had to wheedle and fight for it. They remember these things and they feel afraid, afraid that one day someone might be empowered to speak out. They can pretend away that any allegations would be false, but the truth is that these things were lines crossed, and deep down they know it.

It’s the only way I can explain why men are so persistent in pursuing something with no founding in evidence. Why else would they support something which only protects perpetrators?


20 responses to “Let’s question why men want anonymity for rape defendants

  • jerk

    “if rapists escape” First, I think anonymity is only being asked for those accused, not the convicted. Until conviction, they are a suspected rapist. A convicted rapist is hardly likely to escape, prisons are fairly secure.

    • stavvers

      Nope. They had problems with serial rapists before trial getting out.

      Bless, irrational men and their irrational beliefs.

  • Jonathan

    My own personal theory is that they know in their hearts they, too, have something to hide.

    I don’t think it’s that. More, a “what if it happened to me” perspective. They’ve been through the breakdown of relationships (as most people have) and know all about the antagonism that can follow. So it’s fear that a malicious ex-partner might accuse them of something, they’d be vulnerable to that, and anonymity would protect them to some extent.

    But as you say, that fear is pretty much unfounded. Okay, fear is understandable – I can very quickly become afraid of all sorts of stupid things – but policy shouldn’t be based on unfounded fears, should it. (Please imagine patronising voice saying “Calm down. Calm down.”)

    • linkshund (@linkshund)

      To me it seems more that there’s an awareness that people don’t trust acquittals for these sorts of crimes. A fear that, if false accusations were a thing and happened to you, people would still believe you did it, and got away on a technicality or whatever.

      Weird how you don’t get calls for anonymity with burglary or vehicular manslaughter though. I mean, god knows why people might be sceptical about the outcome of sexual assault trials involving prominent people.

  • pinkagendist

    Well, if one is going to make this case, we have to also ask the police do a better job. The Evans case had too many holes. They tried to create an impression of a pattern of rape/assault when that wasn’t really the case.
    Most of the men said the incidents did not amount to an issue for the police.

    Hitting on someone isn’t the same thing as sexual harassment. People hit on people and that also happens in the workplace.

  • Agrado

    I don’t see any big mystery here. False accusations are rare, which makes them newsworthy, which means they get a lot of press attention, which means that people see them in the news and think they are common – a basis from which defendant anonymity can easily seem fair and reasonable.

    The only real argument *against* anonymity is the “publicity locates additional survivors” one, which for what it’s worth in my opinion is more than sufficient by itself to justify not providing anonymity, given the low incidence of false accusations in reality.

    • Agrado

      lol – thirteen people who downvoted my opinion as incorrect but not a one who can put their objection into words. Where have I erred, O’ nebulous Wisdom of the Internet? Is it that false rape accusations are not rare, or that people do not over-estimate their occurrence, or that the increase in convictions of serial rapists/abusers is not a good enough reason to deny anonymity to defendants? I am eager to learn.

  • surreptitious57

    One thing needs to be stated here above all others and it is this complete fabrication about false rape allegations. Now this is sometimes presented as being in equal probability to true rape allegations and were that the case then the argument for anonymity would be credible. But in point of fact it is not the case at all as false rape allegations are comparatively rare The sad fact is that there are far many more women who are going to be raped than there are men who are going to be falsely accused of rape. So MRA need to drop this fallacious argument as it is misleading at best and
    insulting at worst. And I say MRA because not all men advocate this line
    of argumentation. I certainly do not and for the reason I have just given

    The other argument referencing equality is a lot more valid as a general
    principle however and is one do believe in. But it does have one major flaw as stavvers said in that it can in practice be stacked against the victim
    That however is the fault of the system and so the solution there is to fix that rather than remove the principle. Admittedly easier said than done but even so. The one single thing however that would improve that would be a system that has belief as the default position. And with zero tolerance too So that when a woman goes to the police they know they will be believed That this should even have to be mentioned is sad in itself. But if public confidence in this was absolute then it would help many women

    The argument about revealing the identity of the accused because he might be a multiple rapist is so powerful that I cannot think of a single reason to reject it even though I still in principle believe in anonymity for both victim and perpetrator. Unfortunately moral problems do not always have nice neat solutions and this one is no exception. Though fixing the system is still I think the best option here because if that is got right then anonymity will not be an issue. This is not an ideal solution because it does not translate well to reality and reality is what has to be referenced here. But it is the best one as it currently stands as far as I am concerned

    The men who went on twitter need to realise this now. As is it not about winning an argument online against all feminists. As this is real life we are talking about here. And to answer stavvers as to why some men think the way they do think like this I think it is too complex to stereotype into one neat little sound bite for not all men speak with one voice no more than all women do either. But any position a man holds that is contrary to that of feminism needs to be referenced with some humility because as I said those fine principle do not translate well to reality. I am at least humble enough to see my own position is less than perfect and so should any other man who holds an identical or similar one also

  • oopster74

    Everyone is innocent until proven guilty. I think anonymity should be granted to the accused UNTIL they’re convicted, as mud sticks. This isn’t about protecting rapists at all, it’s about what’s right and wrong. If they’re convicted, string em up for a all I care, they probably deserve no better, but we are supposed to live in a civilised society here.

    • Teabag

      “Everyone is innocent until proven guilty.” This is a very common mistake. If someone has raped another person, they are guilty of that crime and will remain guilty of it even if acquitted in a court of law. The majority of rapists are never brought to trial, and of those who are, many get off because of the prejudices of juries, the fact that lawyers are permitted to focus on irrelevant questions like what the victim was wearing and whether she was sexually active before the rape, and the other ways in which the system is designed not to deliver justice. Even in the case of a genuinely fair trial, some rapes are difficult to prove in a court of law. This means that many rapists are ‘innocent before the law’, because they are found ‘not guilty’. It does not mean that they are actually innocent of the crime.

  • surreptitious57

    I agree that anonymity should be lifted if the defendant is found guilty but that is standard practice in this country anyway. So I am therefore not in favour of lifetime anonymity for that could compromise any subsequent investigations where the defendant was a multiple offender. Obviously that position is not morally or pragmatically defensible. I am not aware of any one who us arguing for that at all. Though some may be in favour of those found to be innocent to be granted lifetime immunity in the same way that victims are too

    Some MRA however think that a not guilty verdict automatically means the woman was lying. No what it means is that the jury did not have sufficient evidence to convict which is something entirely different. Rape convictions are notoriously hard to get because even with so called physical evidence there is no way to objectively determine whether consent was freely given or not and all a defendant has to say is that it was. Even if this is denied it cannot be disproven. But to suggest that all acquittals are evidence of the woman lying is complete rubbish. As for one thing the CPS do not let any alleged crime even get to court unless there is a reasonable chance of a conviction. And that is for all offences not just rape. Furthermore as I have already previously explained the number of false allegations is statistically insignificant compared to the number of actual rapes. So this propaganda referenced by MRA is demonstrably false now. They say that women who commit perjury should be prosecuted and I agree with this. However the actual number of those that do this is very small indeed. It is therefore not referenced from a position of equivalence. Though they cannot mention this however because it invalidates their case

  • SuperCroup

    I would consider the “mud sticks” argument as even slightly valid if it weren’t for the endless praise and defence the world offers men who are acquitted. It’s almost like men who are acquitted get EVEN MORE respect than they had in the first place, whether falsely accused or falsely acquitted.

  • SuperCroup

    Also, it would be nice if we had enforced anonymity for Nigel Evans from here on out. No more discussion of him or his plight. If he’s so desperate to be anonymous, he should shut up.

    • oopster74

      I can only go on what’s been reported on the Nigel Evans case, but it seemed like none of the alleged victims (I hate legal speech like that but it’s got to be done) had an issue with him, they didn’t want it going to court, it was the cps (
      apparently) making sure they prosecuted a high profile person. What gets me, is ooh now he’s found not guilty and everyone’s up in arms that it was a waste of tax payers money. No, he went through the justice system and justice was done or seen to be done.

      Going back to the anonymity for the accused, however rare, what if the wrong person is accused? The victim ( another word I’m getting to hate ) has still been raped, but not by the accused, but by someone else. That’s two people there going through the ringer who don’t deserve it. What’s needed is 2 things (or 2 major things) as I see it. Education to let everyone know that rape is never right, that no means no. Making sure that victims know what to do if the worst happens (I know this happens in a lot of places now and it needs to continue, evolve and get better at collecting evidence).

      It’s a difficult one with no easy answers, although not wanting to sound flippant, I do think the Sharia law system might be popular on this one ie you steal something, that hand gets chopped off.

  • Graham Martin

    “As for equality, fuck that shit.” – quite right. The slogan “don’t get equal, get justice!” comes to mind. Seriously, equality in rape cases makes it sound like you want women to hit the same quota for rapes as men.

  • odoom

    As someone who once had that opinion personally I’d venture a guess at the reason being that all men think “But what if I was accused? Obviously I wouldn’t have actually done it because I’m not that kind of guy (nevermind that most rapists ‘aren’t that kind of guy’). And if I didn’t do it then it’s really unfair that my name could get dragged through the mud and that people might think that I actually did it even though I did. So just in case, defendants should be anonymous”.

    I’ve moved on from that stupidity but I *think* that was my process when I still hadn’t.

  • cabrogal

    Of course the line above should read “To suggest such a healthy process is an indication that all or most men are hiding rapes in their past and therefore want to protect themselves and their fellow rapists is a couple of levels beyond your usual misandry stavvers.” But I guess that’s academic as you have apparently decided to ‘platform’ me (pr whatever your preferred euphemism is) so I’m outta here.

    I would appreciate it if you would delete all of my comments from your blog. Selective censorship/platforming/editing according to your own preferred viewpoint is tantamount to deliberated misrepresentation.

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