In 1982 the BBC broadcast a documentary called ‘A Complaint of Rape’. It was part of a fly-on-the-wall series about the police in which officers were filmed aggressively questioning a woman about her allegation of rape.
It made news around the world and inspired the then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to question the procedure as well as the attitude of those involved. The woman was asked personal questions about her sex life, menstruation and her mental health. The officers told her directly that they didn’t believe her claim. It led individual police forces to reassess the way they investigated allegations of rape.
The film-maker Roger Graef told Witness History what it was like being in the room during the police interview.
Hear our Trustee Dr Dominic Willmott dismantle Rape Myths:
HERE ARE SOME COMMON RAPE MYTHS:
Most rapes are carried out by a stranger - in reality around 90% of rapes are committed by someone known to the victim.
Rape occurs late at night in dark alleyways - victims are often raped in their own home, or in the home of the perpetrator.
Women who dress in revealing clothing provoke rape - rape has nothing to do with the type of clothing a woman wears. Anyone can be a victim of rape, from babies to elderly people, including boys and men.
If someone has drunk a lot of alcohol or taken drugs they are responsible for their rape - if a person is incapacitated by drink or drugs in law they cannot consent to sex. Drinking alcohol or taking drugs is not an invitation to rape.
A genuine victim will scream and fight back - the most common reaction to rape is for a victim to freeze. Other reactions include flop, friend and flight, as well as fight. These are instinctive and automatic responses to fear.
Rape leaves visible injuries - rape does not necessarily lead to physical injuries. Rapists often use manipulation or coercion to force their victims into sex.
Rape is a crime of passion - rape is a way of gaining power and control over a victim. Most rapes are premeditated and many rapists fail to get an erection or ejaculate. Men can control their urges and choose to rape as a way of feeling powerful.
False rape accusations are common - most victims do not report their rape to the police and false reporting is very rare. A CPS report from 2013 showed that over a period of 17 months there were 5,651 rape prosecutions and only 35 prosecutions for making a false allegation of rape. Men are more likely to be raped than to be falsely accused.
If someone is not crying hysterically they can’t have been raped - there is no one reaction to rape, often victims appear flat and calm as a result of shock.
If the victim didn’t report it straight away it wasn’t rape - often victims do not report rape straight away due to feelings of shame and guilt. This is particularly true if the rapist is known to the victim.
Only gay men get raped - the sexual orientation of the victim has no bearing on rape. Rapists rape due to their need for dominance, control and power.