Harriet Harman

Labour Member of Parliament for Camberwell & Peckham

Response to Sarah Vine's comments today on rape and consent

The Director of Public Prosecutions is independent of politicians and her job is not to make the law but to enforce it. And that's exactly what she is doing in respect of rape. She's trying to ensure that victims of rape get justice.  Too many don't report at all - fearing they won’t be believed.  Or drop out half way through the case because they can't face re-living the ordeal.  So the fact is that many rapists get away with it.  That is not only unfair on the victim but its bad news for deterrence.  Most of the evidence is that rape is a "repeat offence" i.e. he'll do it again until he's stopped.

We're not talking about a man making a mistake here - as Sarah Vine does.   We’re talking about a criminal offence.  If I leave a window open an inch and someone breaks in, steals everything I own and ransacks my house no one would say it wasn't a crime or that the offender had "made a mistake".

Rape is the crime of sexual intercourse without consent.  If there is consent then it’s not a crime. What is at issue here is where there isn't consent and how we make sure that women are protected from rapists and that they are brought to justice.

Tackling crimes by men against women is bedevilled by the culture of men's excuses and blaming of their victims.  It was only a few years ago that we managed to change the law so that a man who killed his wife could no longer blame her for provoking him - for example by her having an affair.  The so-called "nagging and shagging defence" which saw wife-killers evade murder charges was abolished.  But in rape, victim-blaming is alive and well.  Can't we ever leave behind the blame culture which says to the victim that she brought it on herself and therefore the man is the victim because he is accused.

The DPP will carry on her work in the best interests of justice.  And more power to her elbow.  She's doing the right thing and it’s long overdue.  It’s not my job to prosecute rapists.  It’s hers.  But I for one am backing her all the way.

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