Wednesday 20th September, 2023
There’s a pattern emerging. Right now it’s about Russell Brand but it won’t be long until it’s someone else. We’re cycling through the predatory celebs, Jonah Hill, Philip Schofield, Johnny Depp, even Prince Andrew. There’s always someone we’re accusing, or defending, arguing about, speculating over. Someone who is “innocent until proven guilty” or whose victims are “Gold-diggers” we’re always asking “why not go to the police earlier?” Others are, of course, trying to make people understand, trying to combat victim blaming, but to no avail, never to any avail. We’ll have the same arguments about Russell Brand that we have done about countless men before and we all know how it’s going to play out: Various organisations will make a big deal about how righteous they are for dropping him, others will complain about cancel culture, he’ll disappear, there might be a police investigation, he might face trial, but probably not. Eventually we’ll forget him and the whole thing will start again with someone else. Those righteous organisations who dropped him will drop someone else, never having learned to stop it happening in the first place. The people who defended him will defend someone else, having the same arguments about “trial by media” on the internet. Nothing will change. Perhaps the BBC who ignored what he was allegedly doing for so long will make a documentary about it all, pretending they’ve “learned” whilst exactly the same thing is happening with someone else.
The BBC and the rest of the media have learned: they have learned that violence against women is great entertainment. That exposes of predators are profitable, that the public love them, and thus this cycle will continue, ad nauseum until we get bored of speculating about whether victims cry convincingly enough and whether rapists really are rapists. Until we get bored of sharing old footage and listening to body language experts paid to talk bullshit about what that eye twitch meant and whether the victim can be trusted because they looked to the left.
Victims of high profile abusers go to the media because it’s the only chance they have of getting any semblance of justice, They wait because the media isn’t interested until it’s ready for that celebrity to fall from grace, get their timing wrong and the chances of them being disbelieved and branded an attention seeker or gold-digger are even higher, and let’s face it, they’re high enough already. Yet, even that media scrutiny, the risk of being publicly ousted, of becoming a target for overly defensive fans, is still preferable to victims than going to the police, is still more likely to result in some form of justice than the proper legal due process. Why? Because, as one victim stated, echoing the words of most others: “The whole process has been more traumatic than the actual rape, I have zero belief in the justice legal system.” *
When a victim reports a rape to the police, most people know she will need to subject herself to invasive and traumatic physical testing for medical evidence, this is just the beginning. Victims are usually then required to hand over their mobile phone to the police for full download, if a victim fails to surrender her mobile phone, in most cases this will result in the investigation being immediately closed. It goes on, records will usually then be requested from third parties, such as records of any social services involvement, medical records, therapy records etc. All of this is done in order to scrutinise the victim’s credibility. In no other crime is the credibility of the victim scrutinised in this way.
If, after all this, the investigation is one of the 5% that leads to a charge the victim will likely have a wait of around three years from the date of reporting to get to trial. During this time the trial date is likely to be fixed, then cancelled, sometimes only hours before the victim is expected to be in court, and re-listed months into the future. Can you imagine how stressful this must be? Should the victim actually make it to trial they will then be retraumatised going through the rape in detail all over again, she will then be cross examined, asked what she was wearing, whether they’d had sex before, whether she “led him on” whether she was drunk and a whole load more judgemental questions designed to make her seem less credible, It’s because of all this that Dame Vera Baird, the victims commissioner for Englad and Wales, describes reporting a rape as a “lottery” where “the odds are rarely in your favour.”** Less than 2%of reported rapes results in a conviction. This is all before we even talk about how the police service has been found to be harbouring rapists for years, why on earth would any victim feel safe walking into a police station?
And so, victims of celebrity rapists are left with trial by media as their best recourse to justice. But where does that leave the other 99% of rape victims, the ones raped by “nobodies” whose downfall provides no entertainment for the masses? It leaves them living in a country that is effectively legalising rape and feeling okay about that because every so often they have the opportunity to express outrage at guys like Russell Brand, but lets face it, if we were really outraged, if we really cared about violence against women, we’d do something about it other than engage in trial by media for titilation where we’re playing a mass game of Cluedo with real peoples lives.
*Victims response to Victims Commissioner survey, 2021”
**You can read Dame Vera Baird’s report here