HomeAfter the horror of the Sarah Everard murder is it finally time we get bold change?
After the horror of the Sarah Everard murder is it finally time we get bold change?
October 04, 2021
In 2003, I established a charity called TeenBoundariesUk. The charity provided a new approach to educating young people in community groups, pupil referral units and schools on the pervasive challenges of peer-on-peer sexual harassment and assault. The work has since been called an early "Me too" with work to combat the statistics that we are now seeing in the "Everyone’s Invited" disclosures. In 2009 with a team of facilitators, I merged TeenBoundariesUK with National Charity ParentlineUK (now FamilyLives). Here are some articles on the work at the time:
I have attached one of over 3500 pictures drawn by young people, which called girls Sluts, Slags, Skets and Whores from those ages of 11 years. Theses image of women show the dammed nature of any women seen to be in anyway sexual. The misogynistic messages sent in the Sarah Everard case by Police Officers do not surprise me, when 1/3 of the public are likely to victim blame (Amnesty International) and again there is nothing to stop misogynistic undertones becoming "banter". Accept in this case most people aren’t blaming Sarah the narrative has changed - people are waking up to the fact the VAWG is real and by denying its existence because the ugliness of it is too real, we are by osmosis allowing it to continue.
Alongside my current p/t role as Anti-harassment and Training officer at The University of Bathm have established a ground-breaking new charity. www.justiceisnow.org. The project has been born out of a lifetime of frustration at the conviction rate for rape in the UK being so consistently alarmingly low. Having delivered workshops to corporates on the ramifications and consequences of sexual harassment at work, there appears to be greater chance of recourse for this than if you were a victim of rape going through the judicial system.
Our approach in having Defence Barristers and survivors of sexual violence as Trustees and on our Advisory Board, is because we believe that by bringing both parties together there is more chance of actual workable practical solutions for change. Our Defence Barrister whom work with us openly talks about how easy it is to dismantle a rape case, after all you only need to plant a seed of doubt.
We are asking the bold question can a Barrister win a case for a Defendant without using rape myths to dismantle a case? Our Barristers so far have said:
Some myth usage could be reduced – there is a reliance on certain ones.
For a fair trial you must ask certain questions to be an advocate for your client but there is a usage of irrelevant questions.
There needs to be examples of best practice and disseminated to all chambers, on how to use less myths/not over play them.
There is no training when you are preparing to join the bar on what rape myths and facts are and their impact on the complaints/juries listening.
There is no Unconscious Bias training for Barristers, who may hold some myths without knowledge of this.
There should be an equivalent of a RASSO list for Defence Barristers.
Our first project we would undertake is a research project (having been granted access by the Bar Council) to find out how all Criminal Defence barristers in rape cases identify their own use of rape myths; how often do they use them, which ones and why? Could they reduce the use and believe they could win and still have a fair trial? We have incredibly strong links with academics who ensure the validity of any questionnaires and research and can assist in setting the project up, alongside evaluation of any projects.
These are difficult questions but ones which must be asked to ensure both Victims and Defendants gain a fair chance at justice.
Our work will further involve:
Establishing an internal code of conduct for Defence Barristers. Defence Barristers who have defended the accused feel there is an opportunity and appetite for change.
Ensuring the Prosecution are held accountable for not objecting to rape myths when used by the defence.
Training all barristers on how trauma makes victims/survivors behave, to reduce the prevalence of PTSD from the use of questioning.
Running campaigns using Instagram/Tik Tok to change attitudes towards victim blaming.
We believe the reliance on rape myths by barristers when defending people accused of sexual offences should become an outdated and unacceptable method of defence. There is no reason why the evidence cannot be tested fairly without recourse to the narrative of rape myths.