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The Unethics of Denial
Feminists misrepresent rape conviction rates, for unhappy reasons and with bad consequences.
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This piece is by . She has her own Substack, Darwinian Gender Studies, and is currently reading for a masters in evolutionary biology and psychology. In this piece, however, she’s not using her biology background, but something biologists often know a bit about—statistics.
Her piece can be adumbrated thusly: UK rape conviction rates are routinely misrepresented, almost always by feminists, and this discourages complainants from coming forward.
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Feminists bang on about patriarchy while misrepresenting rape conviction rates, which actually discourages complainants from coming forward. This does not help women qua women. It does help career feminists.
Last month, the world celebrated International Women’s Day. Or should that be International Feminism Day?As I’ve written previously, there’s a pervasive myth that the words “feminist” and “woman” are synonyms. They aren’t. Feminists are defined by their politics—not their sex or gender—and as polls regularly demonstrate, most people (including women) do not call themselves feminists even when they do agree with the reasonable egalitarian conception of legal equality between the sexes.
Women who forsake the “feminist” label are a well-studied phenomenon in feminist academia. There are papers discussing recruitment tactics, some of which find that reminding women of sexism and female vulnerability increases feminist—as opposed to egalitarian—identification.
The quest for sex (now termed “gender”) equality is one of feminism’s main marketing and recruitment strategies, but it’s not feminism’s primary goal at all. Nevertheless, whenever it’s suggested that equality has been achieved, feminists produce horrific statistics on femicide and rape, to which reasonable critics struggle to respond.
I do not consider myself a feminist of any creed today. This came about thanks to researching the seemingly intractable problem of low rape conviction rates. For decades, we’ve all heard that rape convictions are scandalously low. When I first looked at the issue in the 1990s, they hovered around seven percent. Today, we’re told they stand at less than two percent.
This is a shocking statistic. Even more shocking is the fact that the actual UK rape conviction rate is 62 percent. Feminists produce the low figure by conflating all police complaints with the number of eventual convictions. Rape is the only crime treated this way. If all crimes were viewed similarly, the conviction rate for all crimes in the UK would hover around six per cent. It’s clear the less than two percent statistic is a gross misrepresentation. Yet the media does not challenge it.
“...with rape convictions at a shocking all-time low, how will the Home Secretary ensure that women can come forward with confidence that they will be believed and that they will receive justice?”
Rosie Duffield, Labour MP for Canterbury addressing (then) Home Secretary Priti Patel in the House of Commons, March 15th, 2021, days after the murder of Sarah Everard.
Let’s just pause to consider this for a moment. If one of the major self-declared goals of feminism is to get more victims to “come forward with confidence”, which statistic is likely to do that? Two percent or 62 percent?
“[Rape is] nothing more or less than a conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear.”
Susan Brownmiller, Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape, 1975
After the tragic death of Sarah Everard in early 2021, there was an efflorescence of feminist activism on the subject of violence against women.
Angela Eagle, Labour MP for Wallasy, is recorded in the Commons saying, “rape has effectively been decriminalised,” echoing Rosie Duffield’s claim that “prosecutions are at their lowest ever level.” Press reports backed these claims with numerous features on femicide, depicting a police force and justice system rotten to the core with institutional sexism and misogyny. The message was loud and clear: the justice system is failing women and victims of sexual assault.
Sadly, because the media disseminate these statistics without challenge, people believe them. This is troubling as public confidence in the criminal justice system is central to the rule of law and by the CPS’s own estimation, if the system does not inspire confidence “there is a fundamental risk to how society views the effectiveness of justice.”
There appears to be a mismatch—a conflict of interests—between the declared goals of feminism and its recruitment strategy, which includes spreading myths about rape. This benefits feminism, but harms women.
I could try to be generous and say that this is not a conscious strategy on the part of feminists, but evidence suggests otherwise.
In 2017, feminists petitioned the UK Parliament to enact legislation requiring jurors in rape trials to undertake compulsory training about rape myths both before and during trial. The petition reached the needed 10,000 signatures, meaning Parliament was duty bound to respond.
HMGov commissioned a study, led by Cheryl Thomas, Professor of Judicial Studies at UCL. Her report was the first empirical study of its kind to use real jurors. All, and I mean all, previous data on rape and rape myths by feminists have used self-selected mock jurors, anecdote, or opinion polls.
Contrary to the petition’s central claim—“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”—the Thomas study found juries were not influenced by negative stereotypes of rape victims and convict far more than they acquit.
For non-ideological empirical researchers, this result was not a surprise. Earlier, in 2010, another report on rape, The Stern Report, was commissioned. It made similar findings. Further, in its recommendations, Stern found that the feminist misrepresentation of statistics had the effect of discouraging victims from coming forward. Only two media outlets reported this. Stern explicitly requested feminists to report statistics more responsibly.
What of the “research” cited in the parliamentary petition? It began with a familiar assertion:
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 percent of jurors do not understand judges’ legal directions which attempt to dispel rape myths, but fail. Jurors need proper rape myth training prior to and throughout trials.
Thomas tried to verify these findings and could not:
The petition provided no references that corroborated any of the statistics cited. The petition simply provided links to a Rape Crisis webpage describing different rape myths, a general Wikipedia page about rape myths and a BBC news story about a Scottish public information campaign about sexual violence.
Here were feminists campaigning against rape myths, rape culture and juror bias, lobbying UK parliament, and citing evidence that would not be admissible at GCSE, let alone a court of law.
And in spite of Thomas’ study—the first with real jurors—finding juries convict more than they acquit and are uninfluenced by rape myths, we now find Scottish feminists lobbying their parliament to end trial by jury for rape.
This year, Thomas published a further paper, once again calling for clarity on rape prosecutions, stating that rape conviction rates need to be seen comparatively, with conviction rates for other offences. Once again, she noted the conviction rate for rape is higher than that for threatening to kill, attempted murder, manslaughter, and GBH.
Knowing the truth about jury decision-making in rape cases is important for all complainants in rape cases, especially those complainants who may be reluctant to pursue a case through to trial because they incorrectly believe that juries are unwilling to convict in rape cases.
As I wrote in a short article on International Women’s Day 2016 (for The Independent), the justice system is not failing women and other victims of sexual assault and rape: feminists are. It’s time for feminists to choose between their desire to destroy a patriarchy only they believe in, and women’s rights and genuine egalitarianism.
Betty Friedan’s personal journey as a feminist is instructive on this point. Feminism’s second wave started with Friedan’s liberal vision but soon, radicals who wanted complete “liberation from patriarchy” came to dominate it, describing patriarchy as a cultural mechanism whereby all men oppressed all women.
Friedan acknowledged this radicalism, calling it “pseudo-radical infantilism” and observed that “many women in the movement go through a temporary period of great hostility to men when they first become conscious of their situation,” but grow out of it “when they start acting to change their situation”. She also noted that “man-hating rhetoric increasingly disturbs most women in the movement, in addition to keeping many women out of the movement.”
Radicals ejected Friedan from her own liberal feminist organisation (NOW) in 1970. By 1972, she was warning about the threat of female chauvinism:
The assumption that women have any moral or spiritual superiority as a class or that men share some brute insensitivity as a class—this is male chauvinism in reverse; it is female sexism (…) It is in fact female chauvinism, and those who preach or practice it seem to me to be corrupting our movement for equality and inviting a backlash that endangers the very real gains we have won these past few years.
Many of the criticisms levelled at Friedan’s Feminine Mystique—accusing it of being “white and middle class”—are fair. Friedan complained about middle class women being forced to quit work after marriage, something working class women did not experience, while nonetheless still being subject to widespread male chauvinism. Friedan had a specific goal in mind, however. She didn’t want perpetual war against a nebulous patriarchy. Instead, she focussed on concrete policy outcomes.
By contrast, many feminists have abandoned equality and egalitarianism. One only has to consider the #IDW23 #EmbraceEquity campaign, for example. It “seeks to get the world talking about why equal opportunities are no longer enough”.
Feminists finally coming out as anti-egalitarian is something to note. Meanwhile, we’re all best served by honesty. This quip from grande dame of feminism Gloria Steinem seems apt:
“The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off!”