Mr. Smith’s Robbery

This piece of fiction’s been floating around the Internet, recently: I first saw it on Faye‘s blog and wanted to share it. I believe it’s originally written by a Susan from Glasgow, but I haven’t find anything else to pinpoint the original author.

The law discriminates against rape victims in a manner which would not be tolerated by victims of any other crime. In the following example, a holdup victim is asked questions similar in form to those usually asked a victim of rape:

“Mr. Smith, you were held up at gunpoint on the corner of 16th and Locust?”

“Yes.”

“Did you struggle with the robber?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“He was armed.”

“Then you made a conscious decision to comply with his demands rather than to resist?”

“Yes.”

“Did you scream? Cry out?”

“No. I was afraid.”

“I see. Have you ever been held up before?”

“No.”

“Have you ever given money away?”

“Yes, of course–”

“And did you do so willingly?”

“What are you getting at?”

“Well, let’s put it like this, Mr. Smith. You’ve given away money in the past–in fact, you have quite a reputation for philanthropy. How can we be sure that you weren’t contriving to have your money taken from you by force?”

“Listen, if I wanted–”

“Never mind. What time did this holdup take place, Mr. Smith?”

“About 11 p.m.”

“You were out on the streets at 11 p.m.? Doing what?”

“Just walking.”

“Just walking? You know it’s dangerous being out on the street that late at night. Weren’t you aware that you could have been held up?”

“I hadn’t thought about it.”

“What were you wearing at the time, Mr. Smith?”

“Let’s see. A suit. Yes, a suit.”

“An expensive suit?”

“Well–yes.”

“In other words, Mr. Smith, you were walking around the streets late at night in a suit that practically advertised the fact that you might be a good target for some easy money, isn’t that so? I mean, if we didn’t know better, Mr. Smith, we might even think you were asking for this to happen, mightn’t we?”

“Look, can’t we talk about the past history of the guy who did this to me?”

“I’m afraid not, Mr. Smith. I don’t think you would want to violate his rights, now, would you?”

It’s an effective story, I think, despite the reinforcement of the illusion that rape victims are at most risk from the hypothetical “stranger in a dark alley” (when in actual fact, most rape is conducted by somebody known personally to the victim).

The crime of rape is a whole minefield of complications: the issue of consent; the fact that the only witnesses are generally the victim and their attacker(s), and the sometimes-fuzzy definitions used in many countries’ laws, to name a few. We’re less than a week since a particularly troublesome and emotive case being tried in Cheltenham. In this particular incident, a 15 year-old girl accused a 14 year-old boy of raping her, but it later became clear through the vast inconsistencies in her story that this almost certainly a fabrication. Now, naturally, she’s now being convicted of attempting to pervert the course of justice.

The statement from Women Against Rape? “It is awful that a girl so young has been prosecuted in this way.”

Whoah, whoah – let’s step back a moment. Let’s get this clear: it’s awful that a young woman who lies about being raped, threatening a young man with prison and a lifetime of being on the sex offenders’ register, is being convicted for this? That’s your stance on this? Did I accidentally turn over two pages at once, because I feel like I’ve missed something here.

It’s already awful and tragic that we live in a world where a majority of rape goes unreported. Let’s not also try to make it into a world where it’s acceptable to knowingly make false accusations of crimes, especially those with life-altering consequences.

1 reply to Mr. Smith’s Robbery

  1. Nothing much to add really, except that the point about the stranger cliche is valid, and I totally agree that false accusations should be prosecuted, just as they would be in any other context. I’m always a bit baffled why, in our society of innocent-until-proven-guilty, such a noise is made whenever the subject of anonymity for those accused (not yet convicted) of sex offences is concerned.

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