Thursday, 23 August 2012

Why accusing Assange of rape is the least effective way of getting him to shut up

I haven't had much to say on the whole rape-centric clusterfuck that's been going on this week ("legitimate rape": the only GOP-sanctioned contraceptive! Rape - or just bad manners? "Not everyone has to be asked prior to each insertion", apparently! THIS IS GEORGE GALLOWAY'S IDEA OF 'HILARIOUS EXAGGERATION', rather than AN ABSOLUTE BARE MINIMUM OF HUMAN DECENCY! Being a 'freedom fighter': like being an 'artistic genius' or 'having had a hard life': it now entitles you to one free rape! But is Assange freedom fighty enough to get two?), not because I'm not unbearably furious and depressed by mainstream opinion on the topic, but because everything I could have said has been covered in exhaustive detail.

"After being indoors for so long, Assange is going to look so pasty and creepy"

But there's one thing which is driving me up the fucking wall. It's the idea, suggested by Assange's more blinkered supporters, that getting a man accused of rape is a super-convenient way of blackening his name.

Off the top of my head, here are a few things it would be easier to get someone convicted of:
  • benefit fraud
  • corporate tax evasion
  • murder
  • revolutionary feminist anti-capitalist "hooliganism" 
  • aggressively planting leylandii hedges in your neighbour's garden by cover of darkness
  • being an actual vampire and using your undead superpowers to commit benefit fraud, corporate tax evasion, murder, revolutionary hooliganism, AND illegal horticulture, all for the forces of darkness.
We all know that, for example, the rape conviction rate in England and Wales is around 6%. (We do all know this, right? Turn to the person next to you and make sure they know it too.) We also know that rape reporting rates are extremely low: Fawcett estimates that only around 29% of rapes are reported.

So taking Fawcett's estimate that 47,000 rapes occur in the UK every year...
and noting that, in 2005/6, 13,712 rapes were reported...
and that 6% of 13,712 is 823...
we can establish that the actual conviction rate for rape - the percentage of rapists who will spend a day in prison for their crimes - is 1.75%.

(Oh yeah, and studies show that most rapists don't stop at one rape - the median number of victims per rapist is 5.8.)

So what about Sweden, famous paradise of gender equality?

Well, Amnesty notes that 4,000 rapes are reported in Sweden each year, and in 2008, these resulted in 262 convictions - a conviction rate of 6.65%. But given that the annual number of actual rapes is estimated to be 30,000, that gives us an actual conviction rate of 0.87%.

So just for the sake of argument, say Assange did rape two women, once each. The probability of his being convicted is all of 1.75%.

Slam dunk.


Okay, you're thinking, so he won't get convicted - but what if that isn't the point? What if they just want to throw the accusation out there, so that people will think he's a rapist, and never trust him again? Knock him off his pedestal and ensure he can't lead Wikileaks anymore?

Forgive me, but that is the most staggeringly naive idea I've ever heard. Mike Tyson: convicted of rape, boxing comeback, multimillion dollar endorsement deals, role in rabidly successful movie. Polanski: pled guilty to "unlawful sex with a minor", went on to be one of the most successful and critically-feted film-makers in the world. Hey, want some more examples? Or are you feeling sick yet?

Chances are, being accused - or convicted - of rape will have absolutely zero impact on Assange's career (if anything, history suggests it will enhance his martyr status), while destroying the lives of the women involved. From Fawcett:
“In no other crime is the victim subject to so much scrutiny during an investigation or at trial; nor is the potential for victims to be re-traumatised during these processes as high in any other crime.” (HMCPS & HMIC, 2007)
When the accused rapist is a high-profile man whose work people admire, you can multiply that by about a thousand.

Every woman in the world knows what they would have to go through if they were to report being raped. Every woman in the world knows that the blowback they will suffer - their every decision questioned, their entire sexual history laid bare, their motives assumed to be heinous - will be proportionately more invasive and traumatic according to the fame of the man they are accusing. That's rape culture. We're not doing this for fun.


  1. great post, allama. how in the world did you manage to make me laugh about this hideous topic!

  2. Bless you, thanks for making it worthwhile - writing this was like pulling teeth.