Monthly Archives: July, 2020

QotD: “With charges brought in less than 1.5 per cent of reported rapes, Wistrich agrees with the victims commissioner, Dame Vera Baird, that rape has virtually been ‘decriminalised'”

Harriet Wistrich is never far from the news. The campaigning solicitor and founder of the Centre for Women’s Justice (CWJ) has been involved in a string of ground-breaking cases — notably a human rights challenge to the police’s failure to investigate complaints made by two victims of the black cab rapist, John Worboys.

That case led to a Supreme Court ruling that established a duty on the police to conduct effective investigations into serious crimes.

In the High Court Wistrich also successfully challenged the Parole Board’s decision to release Worboys after serving only nine years in jail and she won a Court of Appeal victory, overturning Sally Challen’s conviction for murdering her abusive husband.

It is difficult to imagine that four years ago, Wistrich — who practises at the London firm Birnberg Peirce — was seriously considering quitting the law after 20 years.

Time-out travelling with her partner, the journalist Julie Bindel, and another friend who was a life coach, gave her the impetus to bring to fruition an idea she had nurtured for years: to set up a specialist organisation campaigning against violence to women and girls and taking strategic litigation to hold the state to account for its failures to protect them.

That strategy bore fruit most recently last week, when the police agreed to withdraw controversial “digital strip search” consent forms, which allowed the examination of information on the mobile phones of rape complainants.

It followed a year-long campaign by Wistrich’s centre, which brought a legal challenge arguing that the forms were unlawful, discriminatory and led to excessive and intrusive disclosure requests.

The challenge was put on hold while the information commissioner considered the issue. Last month Elizabeth Denham recommended that the forms be rewritten because they did not properly explain the legal basis for the digital intrusion into alleged victims. Unless the forms were withdrawn, the CWJ said it would continue its case.

The case, Wistrich says, is a “good example of where strategic litigation can add leverage which all the policy and lobbying in the world won’t necessarily achieve in the same way”.

Not everything has gone her way. In March the High Court refused permission for a judicial review of an alleged covert policy change by the Crown Prosecution Service over decision-making in rape cases, which the CWJ and the End Violence Against Women Coalition claimed led to a dramatic fall in prosecutions.

The refusal, Wistrich says, was surprising and “gut-wrenching”, but they have not given up and an appeal is listed for next week.

With charges brought in less than 1.5 per cent of reported rapes, Wistrich agrees with the victims commissioner, Dame Vera Baird, that rape has virtually been “decriminalised”.

Given the “horrendous and intrusive” criminal justice process, which makes complainants “feel like they are the ones on trial”, Wistrich says she is amazed by those women who proceed.

“If I was a victim of rape”, she says, “unless the whole thing was captured on CCTV — and even in those circumstances, I wouldn’t have a high expectation that it would be prosecuted.”

The culture of “myths and stereotypes” around the reality of rape and defence efforts to get round the prohibition on asking about previous sexual history to undermine credibility, Wistrich says, contribute to the difficulties for complainants.

Prosecutors, she says, should be “more robust and less risk averse” in the cases they take, putting their energy into “more difficult” cases.

The lawyer argues that serial offenders target vulnerable clients — drug users, those with learning difficulties or victims of sexual exploitation — because they know they get away with raping them. “They should focus on prosecuting these cases not the virgin nuns,” she insists.

Full article here

QotD: “Feminist journalists, much more clearly than their mainstream counterparts, understood that gendered grievance can often turn into gendered violence”

It’s striking, now, the breeziness with which so many news outlets amplified the voice of a man who wrote, on his well-publicized website, that “females aren’t here to soothe the ‘savage beast’; the ‘savage beast’ is here to limit their infinite capacity for evil.” And it is notable that one of the corners of the media that did not treat Den Hollander with such easy detachment was the feminist blogosphere. Feminist journalists, much more clearly than their mainstream counterparts, understood that gendered grievance can often turn into gendered violence. They mocked him, too (Jezebel compared him to a recurrent yeast infection), but their mockery had a distinct edge. It warned. It focused on Den Hollander’s “hatred for women.” As Salon’s Amanda Marcotte wrote yesterday, in a piece headlined, in part, “Feminists Have Warned Us”: “Den Hollander was just the latest in a long line of men who would rather blame feminism than themselves for their personal failings, and who lash out violently at the world in acts of murder or terrorism.”

Many media outlets, now, have heeded the warnings. Many now appreciate how easily misogyny can become an emergency. But while the years-old treatments of Den Hollander now seem dated, they don’t seem dated enough. For many Americans, the impulse to treat misogyny as an amusement remains. It was there when Jeffrey Epstein joked about molesting underage girls. It was there when, according to a lawsuit filed on Monday, male employees of Fox News viewed sexual harassment of their female colleagues as little more than pranks. It is there in the presidency of a man who bragged about sexual assault and was elevated to office anyway.

Den Hollander was apparently proud of his media appearances. He listed them, organized neatly by year, in the “résumé” section of his personal website. Under “2011,” nestled between stories about him in the The Times of London and The New York Times, is his appearance on The Colbert Report—the segment in which Den Hollander and his misogyny were so thoroughly mocked. Next to the link, Den Hollander included a note. “If you can make them laugh at you,” it says, “they won’t expect something serious.”

Megan Garber, The Atlantic, full article here

QotD: “UK courts would keep Maxwell’s name secret”

How different things might have been if Ghislaine Maxwell had been arrested in Hampshire — perhaps hiding out in a New Forest cottage — rather than New Hampshire? For a start, it is unlikely the Crown Prosecution Service would have been ready to charge her. The wheels of the criminal justice system grind slowly in such cases. There would not have been a televised press conference, nor would a detailed indictment have been published. Ms Maxwell, who was before a New York court last week, might have been questioned then “released under investigation” or remanded in custody.

What is certain is that she would have hired one of London’s growing band of reputation management lawyers to try to keep her name out of the media. Under our emerging privacy law those lawyers could have applied for stringent restrictions preventing any reporting of her identity as the person arrested. The detention of the world’s most wanted woman would have been hidden.

Brick by brick, the judiciary and the legal profession are building a legal wall of silence around the criminal justice system with a piecemeal law that prizes individual privacy (especially that of rich and influential people) above open justice. It is a law that says the public cannot be trusted (or lack the intelligence) to understand the difference between allegations and proven facts.

And it is a law that, couched in the language of privacy rights, will throw a veil over how the police wield their powers. On arrest, officers can deprive you of liberty, use force to restrain you and search your person and property. The privacy law being developed in our courts threatens to remove a key check on that power by severely restricting the role of the reporter as “public watchdog”.

The journey to this point began with the Leveson inquiry. Exercised by the case of Christopher Jefferies, an innocent man whose arrest in connection with a high-profile murder attracted salacious headlines, Sir Brian Leveson declared in 2012 that “the names or identifying details of those who are arrested or suspected of a crime should not be released to the press or the public”. The next leap forward came with Sir Cliff Richard’s legal action against BBC News, which hired a helicopter to film a police search of the singer’s home in connection with alleged sex offences. Sir Cliff always denied any wrongdoing, was never charged, collected six-figure damages and won a landmark judgment in 2018 when Mr Justice Mann ruled it was “understandable and justifiable (and reasonable) that a suspect should not wish others to know of the investigation because of the stigma attached”. I can just imagine counsel for Ms Maxwell parroting those words in the High Court, arguing that her right to privacy be protected.

The latest iteration of the advancing privacy law goes farther. The case of ZXC concerns a corruption investigation into the chief executive of an international company. Judges in the High Court and the Court of Appeal have ruled that ZXC’s privacy was infringed when Bloomberg reported how a British law enforcement agency was seeking international assistance in its inquiries into him and his company.

The courts acknowledged that the criminal inquiry into the firm was a matter of public knowledge and public interest. The accurate report of the fact of the investigation into ZXC, however, was an infringement of his individual privacy. This right to privacy, judges ruled, must apply to all investigations: “To be suspected of a crime is damaging, whatever the nature of the crime — it is sensitive personal information and there can be little justification for a hierarchy of offences giving rise to suspicion.”

There is a real danger that this judge-made law will place a blanket ban on the reporting of any criminal investigations until they reach the point of charge. Had the Epstein-Maxwell case been in the UK, the media would have been silenced.

Has the judiciary considered the consequences of this prohibition? Often in the cases of serial sex offenders, such as Max Clifford, publicity about investigations brings forward other victims and strengthens the prosecution case. In the cases of dangerous fugitives or murder suspects the media offer a public service when publicising the fact they are being sought by police.

Equally important is the role of the media in scrutinising abuse of police power. In a 30-year career as a reporter I have frequently covered cases of misconduct. Identifying those wronged by police action is an essential part of any such story. In 2018 two Ulster journalists were arrested in 7am raids as police hunted the sources behind their documentary about police collusion in a terrorist massacre. This heavy-handed policing was exposed because the media could report their stories. It took the courts two years to catch up and declare this month that the police conduct was “woeful”.

What would have happened to Lotfi Raissi — arrested in London in September 2001 and wrongly accused of mass murder by training the 9/11 hijackers — if reporters like myself had not chipped away at the case against him drummed up by the FBI, Scotland Yard and the CPS? If that case had been wrapped in secrecy (sorry, privacy) Mr Raissi might be in an American supermax jail now.

Now, when alleged racist conduct by police is under the spotlight, it is vital the media be able to scrutinise cases where police use excessive or unnecessary force during arrests.

There is an important debate to be had on privacy and the media. That debate must allow for the role of the press in investigating misconduct and mistakes by police and agencies that wield power on behalf of the state.

Sean O’Neill

Quote of the Day from PostSecret

From today’s PostSecret

QotD: “Alleged rape victims will no longer face ‘digital strip searches’ by police”

Controversial consent forms known as “digital strip searches” because they allowed police to examine everything in the mobile phones of rape and sexual offence victims are being scrapped.

The National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) has written to chief constables across the country to announce the forms will be withdrawn and replaced by August 13.

The decision comes after Elizabeth Denham, the information commissioner, last month recommended they be removed and rewritten as they did not properly explain the legal basis for the digital intrusion into alleged victims.

The Centre for Women’s Justice (CWJ) brought a legal challenge last year which argued that the use of these forms was unlawful, discriminatory and led to excessive and intrusive disclosure requests.

Rape and sexual violence groups have warned that victims are wary about coming forward to report crimes because of fears that their entire digital history will be trawled, and unrelated events will be used against them to try and undermine their allegations.

Harriet Wistrich, director of the CWJ, said: “We are relieved that these forms have finally been withdrawn from use, but they should never have been used in the first place. Their effect has been to delay rape cases and deter many victims from coming forward or continuing with their cases.”

The digital consent forms, requesting police have access to messages, photographs, emails and social media accounts, were introduced by the NPCC last year as part of a response to the disclosure scandal.

Police and prosecutors had been forced to drop charges against a string of defendants after it emerged they had failed to disclose vital evidence, particularly from digital devices, in a series of rape and sexual assault cases.

However, the forms were heavily criticised when it emerged victims of crimes, including rape, were told that a refusal to allow investigators access to their data could mean prosecutions would be halted.

Last year the CWJ brought a legal challenge on behalf of two women, “Courtney” and “Olivia”, who had reported rape to the police. They objected to the downloading of all of their personal digital data, which they argued was not relevant to the allegations they had made.

The CWJ said that it had received inquiries from hundreds of other rape victims and frontline service providers, raising concerns about the intrusive disclosure requests which were deterring victims from pursuing allegations.

A subsequent Court of Appeal judgment provided a set of guiding legal principles for a correct lawful and proportionate approach to the disclosure of data from complainants in rape and other sexual offences.

Full article here

The BBC is cool with pimps, thinks ‘sex work’ is a neutral term, and its report on OnlyFans sounds like a recruitment drive

In reply to my complaint about the BBC’s invitation to ‘pimp your video calls’, I was told this:

“However your complaint acknowledges one of the central points at issue, which is that the word is also widely understood as contemporary slang, which for many people has outgrown the associations of its origin.”

So that’s all ok then! It’s not like the British Broadcasting Corporation is seen as setting any standards for the nation or anything is it?

In reply to this complaint I was told that:

“As a point of style we do tend to use the more neutral term sex workers in our articles, rather than prostitutes. Our Editorial Style Guide states that to label someone as a prostitute tends to be derogatory and demeaning. So therefore we would not see anything wrong in using the term sex work instead of prostitution.”

Who decided this? Those lobbying for the complete decriminalisation of the sex industry (including the johns, pimps, and brothel keepers) of course!

I have replied again:

In response to your reply to my previous complaint, ‘sex work’ is not a neutral term, it is highly partisan. It is still open to debate whether commercial sex is ‘work like any other’ or sexual exploitation, and using the term ‘sex work’ is begging the question on the issue (‘is sex work work?’ ‘is this bad thing bad?’). Calling the term ‘sex work’ neutral does a disservice to all the women and children who have been subjected to commercial sexual exploitation, and is a boon to the pimps and traffickers who want to rebrand themselves as ‘business men’ and ‘entrepreneurs’. It is no small thing that I have seen the term ‘sex work’ used repeatedly in BBC articles about the commercial sexual exploitation of children, a raped child is never a ‘worker’. The BBC is helping to normalise the sex industry, and the use of the term ‘sex work’ reduces a sex abuse issue to a mere labour issue. How did the BBC decide that ‘sex work’ is a neutral term? Did you talk to any women who had exited the sex industry? Did you ask anyone who had escaped sex trafficking if they were happy with their abuse being called ‘sex work’? If just the word ‘prostitute’ is demeaning, isn’t the term ‘sex work’ just covering up something harmful with a cooler-sounding rebrand? Words matter, words have meanings, and the BBC is failing to be politically neutral on this issue.

And now the BBC is at it again, with a report (in the Business section!) about how great OnlyFans is for young people who have lost their jobs under the COVID-19 lock-down! Sure, there are a few caveats about how much hard work it is, but who’s going to worry about ‘emotional labour’ when they’re told they can make £1000 a month? Don’t worry about leaks, the BBC can reassure you that OnlyFans protects its users’ privacy, and anyway everyone is at it!

I have sent a complaint to the BBC, please feel free to copy and paste or adapt:

I am writing to complain about the article: OnlyFans: ‘I started selling sexy photos online after losing my job’, it reads like a regurgitated press-release from OnlyFans, or a recruitment drive. It is not the BBC’s role to promote the sex industry to teenagers and young people, and it is not the BBC’s role to help normalise and mainstream the sex industry.

QotD: “The Burning Bed”

For thirteen years, Francine Hughes’s husband, James (Mickey) Hughes, beat her routinely. Something as small as the inflection of a word would set him off: he’d pin her down in a chair and pummel her. They divorced in 1971, but, later that same year, he moved back in. “She did try to get away,” her son, James Hughes, remembers in “The Burning Bed,” a new short documentary from Retro Report. “But he would also tell her, ‘There is nowhere you can go, bitch, that I won’t find you.’ ”

One night, in 1977, Mickey subjected Hughes to a particularly humiliating beating. “Smashing food in the kitchen, dumping out the garbage, rubbing it into my hair, hitting me,” Hughes recalled in a television interview, years later. “I thought, I’m never coming back, never, and then I thought, Because there won’t be anything to come back to. That’s when I decided I would burn everything.” When Mickey fell asleep, drunk, that night, Hughes doused his bed in gasoline, lit it on fire, packed her four children into her car, and drove away as flames engulfed the house. Hughes was then charged with the murder of her ex-husband.

Hughes’s story has been told before—the new “Burning Bed” documentary borrows its title from the journalist Faith McNulty’s 1980 book about the Hugheses and from the 1984 TV-movie adaptation, starring Farrah Fawcett. The documentary emphasizes how groundbreaking Hughes’s case was. Lee Atkinson, who was an assistant prosecutor in her case, says that, at the time, police officers would not arrest someone for a misdemeanor unless they saw the crime committed. For Hughes, this policy meant that the police came to her house repeatedly and did not arrest Mickey. “Does she have bruises? Yes. Does she look like she’s been abused? Yes. The police will take a report, but they wouldn’t make an arrest,” he says. At a time when the criminal-justice system failed to deal with domestic violence because—as an “Evening News” broadcast put it—“traditionally, wife-beating has been considered a family affair,” Hughes’s case initiated a sea change, forcing a long-suppressed conversation about domestic violence in America.

In interviews for the film, Hughes’s lawyer recalls that, because Mickey had been asleep, “I did not think that I could convince the jury necessarily that she was not guilty because she was defending herself. So I used the temporary-insanity hook.” He invoked an idea that would come to be known as “battered-woman syndrome,” a term coined by the psychologist Lenore Walker, based on her research with abused women in the U.S. and the U.K. Walker identified an assemblage of psychological symptoms—fear, guilt, and denial—that occurs in victims of intimate-partner abuse. This combination, which has since been classed as a form of P.T.S.D., can make discerning the level of risk in a given moment amid an ongoing pattern of trauma difficult. The defense worked: Hughes was acquitted, in an unexpected victory for her and for the feminist movement.

The film follows the legacy of Hughes’s case, focussing on the ways that, despite changing the national conversation about domestic violence, her acquittal is still very much an outlier—the vast majority of women who kill their abusive partners are not acquitted. The documentary moves forward to 2005, when a Black Ohio woman, Thomia Hunter, was charged with the murder of her boyfriend. (Black women are abused—and incarcerated—at higher rates than white women, and those who fight back against their abusers face an uphill battle in the courts.) Hunter pleaded self-defense, having stabbed her boyfriend while he was choking her. But she was found guilty and sentenced to fifteen years to life in prison, her history of abuse hardly addressed at the trial.

In interviews for the film, the prosecutors in the two cases—both white men—make similar arguments: abuse is horrible, but women have “options.” This claim reflects the view that people in abusive relationships can simply leave. The truth is more complicated, and the perspective of Hunter’s lawyer, Tiffany Smith, who represents ten women who are incarcerated survivors of domestic violence, offers a corrective: “A woman doesn’t go on a first date, get punched in the face, and stay with this person. What happens is very calculating, very slow.” For many women, the decision not to leave is another, paradoxical form of self-defense, Smith points out, and evidence shows that women leaving an abusive partner are “more likely to be killed immediately upon leaving than any other time.”

Last year, Hunter was granted clemency and released, after serving fifteen years. Since the late nineteen-seventies, the number of women in the prison system has grown by more than eight hundred per cent—twice the rate of increase for men—and a majority of them have been victims of domestic violence. Yet the options available to women for legally defending themselves remain dismally limited: as Elizabeth Flock demonstrated in this magazine earlier in the year (“How Far Can Abused Women Go to Protect Themselves?”), Stand Your Ground laws should, in theory, apply to women who kill their abusers; in practice, however, such cases are far more difficult for women to win than men. Mary Anne Franks, a professor at the University of Miami School of Law, argues in a paper titled “Real Men Advance, Real Women Retreat” that Stand Your Ground laws mostly benefit white males with guns (as in the case of George Zimmerman, who shot and killed Trayvon Martin). Men are seen as acting courageously and rationally when they use force. Women’s self-defense, on the other hand, remains reliant for justification on the battered-woman syndrome that saved Hughes four decades ago. Women who defend themselves, Franks says, are still treated “as if there is something wrong with their brains.”

But awareness of how abuse can escalate is not pathological: three women in America are killed by a partner every day, and male partners are responsible for nearly half of the murders of women in the United States. With these figures in mind, it is safe to assume that, for many women who kill their abusers, the alternative was to be killed themselves. Toward the end of “The Burning Bed,” Hunter tells the filmmakers that she is sure that this would have been her fate had she not picked up a knife off the countertop and used it against her alleged abuser: “I definitely take full responsibility for my actions,” she says. “The only thing that I do know is that if I didn’t defend myself that night, it would have been me, not him.”


QotD: “A ban on killers using the “rough sex defence” in England and Wales is set to become law after MPs supported an amendment to the Domestic Abuse Bill”

A ban on killers using the “rough sex defence” in England and Wales is set to become law after MPs supported an amendment to the Domestic Abuse Bill.

The bill now rules out “consent for sexual gratification” as a defence for causing serious harm.

The wide-ranging legislation will also place a duty on councils in England to provide shelter for victims of abuse.

It has been broadly welcomed by campaigners but some said it failed to protect groups such as migrant women.

The bill, which covers England and Wales, has passed its final stage in the Commons and will now be debated in the House of Lords.

It was introduced with cross-party support by Theresa May’s government in July last year but its passage was delayed by December’s general election.

The government said the bill would ensure that children who saw, heard or experienced the effects of domestic abuse would be treated as victims under law.

It would also introduce the first legal government definition of domestic abuse, including economic abuse and coercive or controlling non-physical behaviour.

Speaking in the Commons, Home Office minister Victoria Atkins said one of the most “chilling and anguished” developments in recent times had been the increased use of the “so-called rough sex defence”.

Moving a new clause which would ban the defence in England and Wales court proceedings, she said: “We’ve been clear that there is no such defence to serious harm which results from rough sex.

“But there is a perception that such a defence exists and that it is being used by men, and it is mostly men in these types of cases, to avoid convictions for serious offences or to receive a reduction in any sentence where they are convicted.”


Campaign group We Can’t Consent To This, which wants to make it the expectation that murder charges will be brought against those suspected of killing a person during sex, has hailed the amendment as a “victory”.

The current law says that if someone kills another person during sexual activity they could be charged with manslaughter alone, while to murder someone, there needs to have been an intention to kill that person or to cause them grievous bodily harm (GBH).

We Can’t Consent To This has collated 60 examples of women “who were killed during so-called ‘sex games gone wrong'” in the UK, since 1972.

The group claims that 45% of these cases ended in a “lesser charge of manslaughter, a lighter sentence or the death not being investigated as a crime at all”.

There are also 115 people – all but one of whom were women – who have had to attend court where it is claimed they consented to violent injury, the group has said.

Harriet Wistrich, director of the Centre for Women’s Justice, described the bill as “a landmark piece of legislation”.

However, she said there were “some very important omissions”, including protections for victims of domestic violence who committed crimes in the context of being in an abusive relationship.

Other campaigners have said the legislation needs additions to better protect migrant women.

Gisela Valle, director of the Latin American Women’s Rights Service, said the bill had no provision for safe reporting mechanisms, meaning migrant women who reported abuse to police could be questioned about their immigration status and even detained.

Additionally, some immigrants with an insecure status cannot currently access public funds or housing and refuge support.

Ms Phillips also raised the issue of victims of domestic abuse who are migrants and have no recourse to public funds.

She told the Commons “it cannot be right” that “humans, who when they have been raped, beaten, controlled and abused, before we ask them how we can help, first we ask what stamp is in their passport”.

Ms Atkins said the government was launching a £1.5m pilot fund to support migrant victims of domestic abuse who are unable to access public funds.


QotD: “The clause added by the government rules out ‘consent for sexual gratification’ as a defence for causing serious harm”

The amendment outlawing the “rough sex” defence will be added to the Domestic Abuse Bill today, as it enters its Report Stage in the House of Commons. The clause added by the government rules out “consent for sexual gratification” as a defence for causing serious harm, in England and Wales.

Labour’s Harriet Harman, who led calls for the law change, has told the BBC a serious review of cases dropped because of the “rough sex” defence is an “incredibly important” next step for the justice system.

“I’m seeking a meeting with the Director of Public Prosecutions because they’ll need to issue new guidance for cases going forward. I think they should look back – there’s enough evidence of cases where [the CPS] have taken as read the rough sex gone wrong defence and therefore not prosecuted.

“The whole system is failing victims. Rape is such a serious crime, a violation of a woman both physically and mentally, it is important defendants are brought to justice.”

The opportunity to have their cases retrospectively reviewed could result in a new wave of justice for victims whose cases never made it to court.

The campaign group We Can’t Consent To This campaigned for the “rough sex” defence to be outlawed. They found that over the last decade, 60 women in the UK had been killed by men who claimed in court the women were “consenting” to the violence. In 45% of these cases, they found the defence led to a lesser charge such as manslaughter or no crime at all.

While the “rough sex” defence has typically been associated with the murder trials of women, like the killing of backpacker Grace Millane, it also includes assaults involving serious harm.

BBC Three has found four cases in 2020 so far where “consent to rough sex” was claimed in court to charges of rape and sexual assault. And 17 cases over the last five years.

We Can’t Consent To This thinks the justice system will be unable to tell how many cases have been dropped because of the “rough sex” defence. Moving forward they want the CPS and police to start collecting this data and report any failings. “It can’t be left to us”, they add.


The Centre for Women’s Justice say if the government requested the CPS and police review all sexual violence cases dropped because of the “rough sex defence”, this would grant the “exceptional circumstances” needed for victims to appeal their decisions.

Anna Mazzola, a human rights solicitor for the Centre, says “we’re increasingly seeing the CPS refusing to bring cases, even when they appear to be strong cases.

“It would be very helpful if the review was ordered – there is certainly mileage in looking at all of the cases where the CPS or police have decided not to prosecute on the basis that the defendant might claim the rough sex defence and working out whether those cases were correct.

“We’re aware of some very concerning decisions, but those are only cases that have come to us, so it’s quite possible that lots of these cases are going under the radar.”

The CPS said claims a victim had “consented” to an assault does not stop them from prosecuting: “Tackling violence against women and girls has long been a CPS priority, and one we remain strongly committed to.”

Full article here

QotD: “Inequality isn’t something that exists in the outside world. It lives indoors, part of the everyday”

Before lockdown, we were already being sold various Mrs Hinch-type versions of housework as somehow competitive and fun. If women want to polish the bars of their own cage, let them. But to save you watching any of these cleaning “influencers”, let me simply tell you that the answer to any cleaning problem in their world is one word: vinegar.

In mine, it’s also one word: men. Some may wipe down the worktops and do a bit more, for which we must applaud them. Get the pom-poms out. The fact is, though, Covid-19 has taken women’s roles back to the 50s. Women are home schooling, working and doing huge amounts of domestic work. The answer to 50s-style problems may be some 70s-style consciousness raising about gender roles. “Women’s domesticity is a circle of learnt deprivation and induced subjugation: a circle decisively centred on family life,” said Ann Oakley in 1974. If that’s a little too hardcore for you, have some Betty Friedan: “No woman gets an orgasm from shining the kitchen floor.” Damn right, Betty.

But, instead of discussing how gender roles are regressing; how the virus has derailed women’s careers; how childcare is falling apart; how female workers will be hit hardest by the recession; how female academics have turned in far fewer papers than their male counterparts; how, at the end of furlough, redundancy will affect more women; how the gender pay gap is rising – in other words, all the pre-existing inequalities that have been exacerbated by Covid-19 – what do we talk about?

Two things. We continue to have a conversation around gender, which emphasises it as a set of feelings rather than being about often mundane lived experience; and we have, on social media, a ridiculous row over cleaners. Various bright young things declare their sainthood. Either they don’t have cleaners or they pay them the GDP of Venezuela. Only bad women, Karens, boomers, like me, have cleaners, whom we probably abuse. Some of us have been cleaners, but no matter. Working women pay others to look after our children and to do some of the domestic work or we could not do it. Just as men do. And always have done. But men are not attacked for this. Ever.

Ineptitude in the domestic sphere is something that men actually boast about, as if it proves their competence in every other sphere. Isn’t it hilarious? Those men who don’t even know if there is a washing machine in the house. I have interviewed rock gods like this. I much prefer the Joan Collins approach. Apparently, when asked at airport check-in if she had packed her own bags, she answered: “The very idea!”

But the serious part of domestic labour being invisible and somehow personal has huge implications. The absolute tragedy of this crisis is that underpaid care workers in homes have died because care in our own homes is not valued. We are run by people who don’t respect those who do such care in our society, because this is the lowest-status job. Women do it. Immigrants do it. Childcare and the opening of schools has not been a priority because, well, like the laundry, other people do that.

Inequality isn’t something that exists in the outside world. It lives indoors, part of the everyday. A glowing showerhead is not the route to happiness. Yes, lockdown has meant pleasure in the domestic sphere for some, and well done to those who have gussied up their homes and gardens. Yet, with months until all children are back to school, many women are exhausted and will be unemployed by the winter. It is terribly old-fashioned to talk about the domestic labour debate I know, the part about how unpaid work keeps capitalism functioning. Well, it keeps us all functioning. This is why a former prime minister can joke about never having to do it. It’s a sign of power.

How we laugh as we lie back and think of descaling the kettle. How many prime ministers does it take to change a lightbulb? Don’t ask me. How many prime ministers does it take to change the reality of women’s lives? We were on the double shift: work and housework. Now many are on the triple shift: work, housework and schooling. The lightbulbs went out some time ago, and, if we are not to go back to the dark ages, then someone better get some bright ideas and replace the duds quickly.

Suzanne Moore