The issue of sexual history evidence exposes a strange dissonance at the heart of rape law. On the one hand, the principle of sexual autonomy, which provides the normative grounding for rape law, recognises and purports to protect the right of any person to choose when, where, and with whom they have sexual relations. It thus entails a conception of consensual sex which is time, place, and person specific. On the other hand, the defendant’s right to a fair trial, a right which is both amorphous in substance and scope, and weighty in terms of normative significance, is believed to support the right of a rape defendant to bring to the court’s attention evidence that a complainant has engaged in consensual sex at other times, places, and even with people other than the defendant. How can this be? How can such two apparently incompatible positions co-exist within the same justice imaginary? Must one inevitably cede to the other or is it possible to envisage an ideal of criminal justice capacious enough to encompass both? (more…)
In this seminar I argue for the need to think resistance to rape as part of a much broader feminist decolonial revolutionary praxis. I approach feminist anti-rape praxis in view of the consistent failure of criminal justice but also with an eye on the political present, which is characterised by profound inequality, state violence and repression, and the outright breakdown of many aspects of the social contract. To fully comprehend what the harm of sexual violence means and why it happens, we need to insist on a critical continuity between the diagnostic aspect of feminist philosophical scholarship on rape and a theoretically robust strategy for resistance.
In recently published work I engage in a philosophical and psychoanalytic excavation of legal discourse on (and in) the rape trial. In this post I briefly summarise my key claims arguing, while I do, that legal scholars must diversify the theoretical tools they draw on in confronting issues of social justice.
Much feminist scholarship on rape asserts that the law has reached a best practice plateau and justice for victims is now being held back primarily by the aberrant ‘attitudes’ of criminal justice actors charged with implementing the law. Those attitudes, it is argued, militate against the best intentions of law makers charged with stemming burgeoning attrition rates. Attrition refers to the phenomena – not anomalous in the criminal justice system, but particularly marked in cases of sex crime – whereby alleged instances of sexual violence drop out of the criminal justice system. This occurs at multiple points, the most notable of which is the first point where a victim makes the decision to report to police. (more…)
The case of the Black Cab rapist, John Worboys, may well qualify as one of the most egregious failures of modern policing of our times. Alleged to have assaulted over 100 women using his taxi as a lure and a crime site, Worboys terrorised women in the London Metropolitan area for the best part of a decade before eventually being apprehended and imprisoned in 2009 for 19 separate sexual assaults. This week the Worboys case is once again in the public eye as a claim by two of his victims, DSD and NBV, that the Metropolitan Police violated their human rights by failing adequately to investigate their claims comes before the Supreme Court.
One has to wonder how such serious criminal activity in a public setting could go unchecked for so long. The simple answer is that the Metropolitan Police failed Worboys’ victims utterly and unequivocally, their investigation marred by multiple systemic and operational failings, as elaborated in painstaking detail by Mr Justice Green in a High Court judgment in 2014. (more…)