Our protest outside the Crown Prosecution Service - (trigger warning for discussion of sexual assault)
On 1st July Slut Means Speak Up, together with Women Against Rape, the English Collective of Prostitutes, WinVisible and the Black Women’s Rape Action Project, took to the streets to picket the Crown Prosecution Service. We demanded an end to the unjust and misogynistic treatment of those who report rape only to be derided, shamed and blamed by the police and courts, and demanded protection for the sex workers who the legal system prosecutes for working together for safety, preventing them from reporting sexual violence.
We came together to protest the 6.7% rape conviction rate, the attack on women by the legal system and the criminalisation of sex workers - but statistics and legal reports come nowhere near to explaining the anger and pain that rape victims and sex workers feel at the hands of a legal system which claims to protect us - but instead protects our attackers. Almost everyone at this rally felt empowered to take the microphone to speak about their own experiences - from a sex worker who had been harassed by police on the streets of Paris, to a man who asked the police to act on the sexual grooming of his thirteen year old daughter only to find himself facing an accusation of harassment against police staff, to a woman who held up a picture of her battered face taken after her rape, to a young woman who spoke of the harassment and ridicule young women reporting sexual assault face from the police. A speaker from Women Against Rape told of a case where a man had filmed the woman during his rape of her. At great risk to herself, the woman managed to obtain the video and take her attacker to court - where she was then shown the video in the courtroom. She broke down crying and the judge said that the case was ‘too traumatic’ and put it ‘on file’ - which means that there is no chance of re-opening the case to win justice for this woman in the future.
Niki Adams, from the English Collective of Prostitutes, spoke of the case of Sheila Farmer - a sex worker who reported a gang which had been roaming the area and attacking women, only to find herself on trial for working together with other sex workers for safety. The police charged her with brothel keeping, raided her flat and confiscated her possessions. We were also there to support two women, both mothers, imprisoned for making so-called ‘false allegations’: Gail Sherwood, who was found half naked in a remote field, her hands tied above her head, visibly suffering from shock - yet the police called her ‘a sad, lonely 50-year old who couldn’t get a man and had made it all up’ and lost key evidence. The other is Leyla Ibrahim, a woman who claimed she was attacked on January 4th, 2009. Her mother reports that ‘she scrubbed herself in the shower until she was practically bleeding. She forced her brother to sit in her room with her so she was not alone’ after her assault, and an expert medical witness claimed that it was ‘unlikely’ that her injuries were self inflicted - yet she is now in prison for making a ‘false allegation’ of rape. And a young woman spoke of her rape in her flat at the hands of a friend, which the police told her was her fault for letting the man into her flat. These are real people with real experiences and real anger. We cannot be covered up and silenced by government reports which admit the ‘regrettable’ state of rape prosecutions but take no action, or by the rape apologists who claim that women were either lying or “asking for it”. Our voices are loud and our demands clear.
For a long time rape has been something which our police, law officials and government have been happy to force behind closed doors. Either evidence is lost or badly handled, or her clothes, sexual history, age or skin colour mean that it was not rape and she was in fact “asking for it”, or “men can’t get raped” or it is not “proper” rape - too ‘complicated’ for the attacker to be held to account, as Ken Clarke says - or the woman must be lying. But on the 1st of July we were angry and determined to be heard as our words echoed loudly through the street - giving the Crown Prosecution Service no choice but to listen. Rape - the private pain of the individual - is being transformed into the public protest of the survivor as people of all genders, races and backgrounds come together to insist that we are protected and treated fairly by the law which claims to be accountable to us - yet refuses to protect society’s most vulnerable people.
The success of this demonstration mean that it is likely we will hold another one in the near future so watch this space! Thank you so much to everyone who came and made it such a powerful protest and such a powerful celebration of our refusal to be victimised and intimidated by those who claim to protect us - we hope to see you again and to anyone who couldn’t make it, we hope that soon you will join your voice to ours.
Photo: Niki Adams
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Donate to SlutWalk London 2012! We still need over £2,000 for a PA system, permits, stage etc.
A film against rape We are making a self-help film about rape which educates us instead of telling us to be ashamed.
SlutWalk London 2012!
Sheila Farmer's prosecution dropped
Photos: Tom Radenz and Claire Butler