Sexual Consent Is NOT Simple, Alison Saunders
Alison Saunders, DPP, recently wrote an article on the CPS website headed “Sexual Consent Is Simple”.
I would beg to differ.
The article describes how victims of rape have often been blamed for allowing themselves to be raped. Let me make it clear that I do not agree that any genuine rape victim should be made to justify or explain themselves in any way, shape or form.
However, the article went on to compare how such victim blaming is like asking the victim of a burglary what they did to allow themselves to be burgled.
This argument is nonsensical.
Everyone knows that burglary is wrong. Illegal. Simply not allowed. To take something that belongs to another without express permission is simply not okay – and people recognise that. As such, consent is rarely an issue in burglary. It is very rare for someone to say: “I misread the situation and thought it ok to take it”.
Sexual relationships cannot be compared to burglary.
Most sexual relationships, even if the sexual intercourse will be a one-off incident, require a gradual transition from non-sexual to sexual activity. This is a subtle shift. There is, usually, no verbal conversation, eMail exchange or written contract. It is, instead, an often awkward and nerve-wracking act for both parties that is worked out using body language more than verbal language.
To say that consent is simple in this scenario is simply not true.
Alleged victims of sexual assault or rape are given great protection by the law, as they should be. What this means is that their demeanour both during and after any alleged rape is protected from criticism.
There are, of course, very black and white rape cases where sexual consent is clearly not present. Those cases should be prosecuted and the offenders should be convicted and punished.
But the majority of rape cases involve a much more grey area when it comes to sexual consent. These cases often involve the blurred line of what has been agreed to, or what has reasonably been considered to have been agreed to.
Sexual consent can be many things.
It can be the silent, passive, allowing of sexual intercourse that is surely common between long-term partners.
It can be the eager, passionate involvement that is then regretted once the female is sober or when their partner discovers an infidelity.
It can be a tentative “ok” offered by a teenage girl in response to her first boyfriend asking if she’s sure.
It can be a look, a touch, a smile, a moan.
It is almost never a deliberate, “yes I consent to having sex with you now”. How much easier our work would be if this was the norm.
Victims of rape must be protected. We stand by rape victims and their rights.
But sexually active men must be protected as well.
To misread a signal, is not rape.
And we strongly feel that this idea of sexual consent as a simple issue, is to dangerously oversimplify an incredibly complicated issue.