Intended for healthcare professionals

Letters

Time to talk about rape

BMJ 2001; 322 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.322.7280.232 (Published 27 January 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;322:232

Women must be free to take charge of their own lives

  1. Jean R Edwards (JEdwards{at}doh.health.nsw.gov.au), senior medical officer
  1. Sexual Assault Service and Child Protection Service, Northern Sydney Area Health, St Leonards, New South Wales 2065, Australia
  2. The Haven, Caldecot Centre, King's College Hospital, London SE5 9RS

    EDITOR—A campaign against rape is needed that is based on the human rights of women in their own right rather than on their relationship to the men in their lives.

    Although I am pleased to see rape on the agenda for discussion, I feel that the approach taken by MacDonald fails to reflect the reality of women's lives in the countries she mentions.1 It is useless to say that men should remember that women are their mothers, wives, and daughters when husbands, fathers, grandfathers, and brothers commit a large proportion of rape and violence against women. The family home may well be the least safe place for a woman to be. It is common in some communities for a woman to be forced into marriage with her rapist as a means of safeguarding what is regarded as the family honour.

    In a study of convicted perpetrators of child sexual abuse in London, 57% of the female victims were abused by relatives or within the home.2 Of the perpetrators, 15.5% sexually abused their natural daughters, 10.5% sexually abused their stepdaughters, and 10% abused other female relatives. In a study of rape conducted in London by questionnaire, of 694 woman who completed the questionnaire, 11% reported being raped by a family member, 10% by a boyfriend or former boyfriend, and 5% by a family friend.3 Women must be free to take charge of their own lives and to choose their place of work without discrimination and, if they wish to marry, to choose their own marriage partners. Until this happens a woman will be perceived as the property of a male and her value will be judged by her virginity or her chastity. Until society eschews all violence against women and grants them the same rights as men to education, work, and personal freedom, women will be raped twice—the first time by their assailant and the second time by the legal system that tries the case.

    References

    1. 1.
    2. 2.
    3. 3.

    Joint initiatives can improve services for complainants of sexual assault

    1. Evelyn Kerr (evelynkerr{at}doctors.org.uk), clinical research fellow,
    2. Ruhi Jawad, forensic gynaecologist,
    3. Bernadette Butler, forensic gynaecologist,
    4. Jan Welch, consultant
    1. Sexual Assault Service and Child Protection Service, Northern Sydney Area Health, St Leonards, New South Wales 2065, Australia
    2. The Haven, Caldecot Centre, King's College Hospital, London SE5 9RS

      EDITOR—We endorse MacDonald's recent editorial on sexual assault and violence against women.1 Though the global statistics on sexual assault against women are shocking, we should not ignore the facts that are closer to home. In the year 1999-2000, 2300 allegations of rape were made to the Metropolitan Police Force of London.2 Since 1985 the number of allegations of rape has increased threefold, which mirrors the worldwide situation. Despite the increase in reported rapes the crime is underreported and conviction rates have dropped (K Giles, New Scotland Yard, personal communication). The percentage of court cases that secured a conviction for rape has decreased from 24% to 9% in the past 15 years.3

      To improve the service provided by the police to adult complainants of sexual assault, a new project has been piloted by the Metropolitan Police in southeast London. The Haven has been set up between the Metropolitan Police and King's College Hospital NHS Trust to provide comprehensive care for female and male victims of sexual assault and rape. The Haven can be accessed 24 hours a day, seven days a week by victims themselves or via the police. It is set in a self contained unit within the sexual health department of King's College Hospital rather than in a police station. The service provides forensic medical examinations for victims and can offer immediate medical care, such as first aid; prophylaxis against infections, including HIV; and emergency contraception.

      The Haven also runs three follow up clinics a week where psychosocial support and counselling contracts of six sessions are offered, together with screening for sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV testing. Since its launch in May 2000, the centre has seen 320 people, of whom the police referred 253. Nineteen of the complainants were male, and 40 were aged between 12 and 15 years.

      The Haven is based on the pioneering service at St Mary's Hospital in Manchester but integrated into a comprehensive sexual health service. The Haven aims to provide victims of sexual assault with a sensitive environment that supports reporting to the police, optimises collection of forensic evidence, and offers continuing medical and psychosocial support.

      We hope that the Haven will advance the service available to complainants of sexual assault, thereby encouraging reporting to the police, which in turn may improve conviction rates in sexual offences.

      References

      1. 1.
      2. 2.
      3. 3.
      View Abstract