“It’s Rape, Jim. But Not As We Know It.”

*NOTE* – As has been pointed out to me by a few people, my wording here is far from ideal.  Rape does not necessarily need to be accompanied by violence or the threat of it.  I shall be writing a further post to clarify in due course.  Thank you to all those who took the trouble to offer constructive criticism.  I really do appreciate it.  *END*  1.9.12
My response to feedback received can be found HERE.

  ******************

Rape.  Such an unpleasant word that it should have it’s own sentence, so as not to contaminate the words around it.   For me it has always meant forced sex with violence, or the menace of violence.  I see the victims as battered and bruised, crying, often abandoned.  And more often than not this is compounded by a judicial system that doubts, fails, and ultimately humiliates those seeking justice.  Ask any woman, the society we live in does not move heaven and earth to provide justice to victims of rape or sexual assault.  Very far from it in fact.

But it would appear things are rather different if the alleged perpetrator is called Julian Assange, the Editor-in-Chief and founder of WikiLeaks.

Suddenly it seems heaven and earth will indeed be moved in order for justice to be done, what with the UK government threatening to storm the Ecuadorian Embassy in order to arrest Assange and have him extradited to face questioning over allegations of rape and sexual molestation.  There are those who deny this was a threat, but one has to bear in mind the language that diplomats use with one another.  Threats are couched in the most banal terminology.  Here I think is the killer sentence –

You need to be aware that there is a legal base in the UK, the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act 1987, that would allow us to take actions in order to arrest Mr Assange in the current premises of the Embassy.”

Quite a change from 1998 then, when the UK refused to extradite General Augusto Pinochet to Spain, to face charges of genocide and terrorism.  And also quite a change from June this year, when the UK refused to extradite to the US a man suspected of raping children.

Which kind of throws into serious question William Hague’s claims about Britain’s “blinding obligations” under “international law”.  You’d think if William Hague was so concerned about ‘binding obligations’ and ‘international law’, he’d also be an advocate of nuclear disarmament and the prosecution of Tony Blair for war crimes.  But no.

When Jack Straw, the Labour Home Secretary, denied the Spanish request for the extradition of Pinochet, he cited the unique circumstances, saying the case was “unprecedented”, and that he was “in uncharted territory”.   Jack Straw in this case used his wide discretion and was said to have been obliged to “consider the personal circumstances of the alleged offender and any new evidence since the committal.”  Which is a considerable distance from Hague’s strict adherence to “binding obligations”.

So why the different approach to the extradition of Julian Assange?  For many, including activists from Women Against Rape, and the feminist author Naomi Wolf, there are good reasons to be suspicious of the uncommon zeal being shown in the efforts to get Assange extradited, and the “glaring aberrations” in the handling of the case.

It is widely believed that Assange’s ultimate destination is the USA to be prosecuted for his political work with WikiLeaks.  And this is the number one reason why he is in the Ecuadorean Embassy today, to avoid the terrible fate of Bradley Manning, namely torture, solitary confinement, and the possible death penalty.  Assange has stressed repeatedly he would readily travel to Sweden today and face the allegations if he could be assured there was no risk of him ending up in the hands of the US authorities.

Yet to mention these issues is to run the risk of being labelled a “rape apologist”, as George Galloway, Tony Benn, John Pilger, and even the ladies from Women Against Rape have found in recent weeks and months.  Galloway, in particular, has been slaughtered for calling Assange’s behaviour nothing more than “bad sexual etiquette“, and saying that even if the allegations of the two women “were 100% true” they would not constitute rape.

My guess is that Galloway based these remarks on the leaked Police transcripts of the interviews with the women involved.  Another aberration in the pursuit of justice, but very interesting nonetheless.   Here is the account of the incident –

They sat on the bed and talked and he took off her clothes again.  They had sex again and she discovered he’d put the condom only over the head of his penis but she let it be.  They fell asleep and she woke by feeling him penetrate her.  She immediately asked ‘are you wearing anything’ and he answered ‘you’.  She told him ‘you better not have HIV’ and he replied ‘of course not’.  She felt it was too late.  He was already inside her and she let him continue.  She couldn’t be bothered telling him again.  She’d been nagging about condoms all night long.  She’s never had unprotected sex.  He said he wanted to come inside her, he didn’t say when he’d done it but he did it.  There was a lot running out of her afterwards.

She told him what happens if she gets pregnant.  He replied that Sweden was a good country for raising children.  She told him jokingly that if she got pregnant then he’d have to pay her student loans…….”

Personally, I agree with Galloway to the extent that the above does not describe “Rape” as I have understood the word most of my life.  There is no violence, no hint of it, and no expressed refusal of consent.  In the circumstances above, I think one can be forgiven for thinking there would be a “reasonable expectation of consent”.   As I wrote on my Facebook page this morning, “If initiating nocturnal sex with a sexual partner who is half asleep is rape, then every girl I have ever slept with is a rapist, and so am I.”   I guess this makes me some kind of prehistoric, misogynistic rape apologist too.

But still, the allegations need to be tested in a court of law.  Everyone wants that.  I have read no serious commentator suggest otherwise.  While Sweden and the UK refuse to use their ‘discretions’ in this particular ‘uncharted waters’ to assure Assange of no forward extradition to the USA, the pursuit of justice will stall.  If the UK and Sweden are really interested in getting justice for these two women, then all it will take is a few little words – “No extradition to the US on Wikileaks related charges.”  It really is that simple.

*Further article responding to criticism of this post – HERE.

Further reading –
Debate between Women Against Rape advocate and Bonnie Greer.
In Defence of George Galloway, Huffington Post.
Glenn Greenwald on extradition myths.
Ruth Hull – The Persecution of Assange is a Persecution of Women Worldwide.
Greenwald again, on the Media contempt for Assange.
Seaumas Milne, Don’t Lose Sight Of Why The US Is Out To Get Assange.
US intends to chase Assange, cables show.
Craig Murray – America’s Vassal Acts Decisively and Illegally
John Pilger, The Pursuit of Assange is an assault on freedom.
Guardian, leaked police reports.
Bradley Manning Support Network.

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20 Comments

  1. Hmmm, taking one paragraph out of context and saying it isn’t rape. Were you there, by any chance?

    • Actually, the paragraph tells of what is termed in the leaked report as “The Assault”. Care to enlighten me on what ‘context’ was missing?

  2. It is quite extraordinary, as you suggest in your excellent piece, that so many journalists are filled with such hypocritical righteous indignation over this case. Assange is being treated as though he has already been investigated, convicted and charged.

    More tricky ground comes when anyone dare ask why he is being treated as a liar for denying rape, at the same time as admitting sex took place, while not one journalist has dared suggest the two woman involved might be lying. After all, men don’t have a monopoly on lying.

    Every time I say or write that I feel I have to qualify it by adding I have no real idea what happened on the nights in question, only Assange and the two women can. In point of fact, Assange can be the only one to know what happened on both nights, as he was the only one present both times.

    Rape is a very serious crime. Men convicted of rape are generally have a history of committing the offence repeatedly. When Strauss Kahn was accused of rape only last year, other women came forward to accuse him of sexual misconduct. Given the publicity surrounding this case it’s incredibly odd no other women have come forward.y

    • I wouldn’t go as far to suggest there is a possibility that the women are lying. After all, neither of them, to the best of my knowledge, actually claimed in the Police interviews that they were raped. Thanks for the comment.

      • No, neither am I suggesting they are lying.

        You don’t seem to get my point, and in doing so fall into the same trap as most journalists. You appear afraid of saying if two women accuse Assange of rape and he denies it, someone has to be lying. If it isn’t Assange it must be one, or both, of his accusers. The options are straightforward, he could’ve raped one, he could’ve raped both, or he could’ve raped neither. Whatever way you look at it someone has to be lying to a degree.

        Of course, it could depend on what you regard as rape. This is an entirely different question, and it certainly looks as as though Swedish law needs some serious changes in this regard.

        To have people assume Assange is some sort of psychopathic rapist does nobody any good. Worst of all it is an insult to women who have suffered horrific violence at the hands of extremely violent men.

        If we are to legislate anew we must look at other legislation.

        Regarding killing of another person and physical violence there are categories, which reflect the seriousness of the assault. There is no need to panic over this, the rape laws must be looked at rationally.

        It must be quite obvious to you that many journalists are suggesting Julian Assange is lying when he denies rape, and anyone who suggests the women might be lying is immediately attacked.

        I feel a tiny bit like that now.

      • I’d like to think I am not afraid of saying anything. Certainly those that know me would say I am capable, without fear or favour of saying anything! 😉 And also, I am not a journalist.

        I do not assume that someone has to be lying out of the two women and Assange. Neither women, according to what we know, has actually accused Assange of rape. Maybe you can correct me there? IF anyone is not being scrupulously honest here, my suspicions would fall on the Swedish prosecutor that decided there were legs in the case after it was initially dismissed.

        I am happy to believe the women told the truth. Neither alleged rape, That is the allegation of the Swedish authorities, not the women in question, as far as I know.

      • I realise you’re not a journalist, but you still seem to miss what I’m trying to say. Whether you believe the women are telling the truth or not is irrelevant. What I’m saying is that Assange is being presented as a liar in the press.

        Whatever you choose to believe, the two women went to the Swedish police and laid charges against Assange. The police decided their stories warranted rape charges and presented the women’s testimonies to a prosecutor. The women had to know Assange was being charged of rape and therefore they put themselves in the position of charging him with rape. Of that there is no question. The women chose to let the process go ahead, and never withdrew their accusations.

        As you know the first prosecutor decided there was either not enough evidence, or the events did not constitute rape under Swedish law. A second prosecutor decided the contrary. Still the women did not withdraw the charges, so one must assume they believe they were raped.

        I do not presume to know what went on and am not accusing the women of lying, or Assange.

        But it has to be faced there are only three possibilities here. Assange could be lying, one of the women could lying, or both women could be lying. Perhaps you don’t like the word lying, but the press seem to love suggesting Assange is lying, his character is being ripped apart on a daily basis. I am only trying to present things as objectively as I can in a world where emotions are running incredibly high.

        One thing is certain, and that is that a fair trial cannot take place due to the media coverage.

        The two women’s testimonies have been compromised by their names being released. This has made it virtually impossible for them to withdraw their accusations or refuse to testify, as to do so would bring about accusations that they are liars, and even criminal charges. In effect, they are now under pressure to stick to their stories, whatever the truth of the matter. You can bet your bottom dollar the Swedish police and courts aren’t going to hold up their hands to having made a complete mess of things.

        We now have the situation where all three involved have become victims whatever the verdict of any trial.

        I’d like also to point out, though the women were allowed to share notes – something not permitted by Swedish law – the alleged crimes are separate cases and should be tried as such. The manner the press is using one accusation to lend support to the other would not be permitted in a British court. It is not permitted to use previous convictions as evidence – except under certain circumstances, let alone accusations. Only for sentencing can those be taken into consideration.

        Hope I make myself clear, and have enjoyed our exchanges.

      • I think I understand what you are saying, and I agree with quite a bit of it. The “grave aberrations” in the reporting of it and in the handling of the case by the authorities(the leaks, the interviews etc) do indeed make a fair trial very difficult, if not impossible.

        I am not so sure that I agree(from my readings so far anyway) that it is true that the women “went to the Police and laid charges” as you formulate it. My understanding is that the women went to the Police for advice about how to get Assange to submit to an HIV test. From what I gather neither of the women actually accused Assange of raping them. I read somewhere of this point being put to a Swedish Prosecutor or politician, and receiving the reply “Ah, but they are not lawyers.”

        Which leaves a further possibility. That neither Assange, or the women are lying. And that the whole thing is a political concoction.

        You say that the fact the women did not “withdraw their accusations” means they think they have some validity. But isn’t that contradictory of your final point, about their names being known and how difficult it would be now to withdraw? Who knows what the truth is of the matter? I certainly don’t.

      • The thing about going to the police to see if they could force Assange to take an HIV test seems highly implausible to me. Why on earth would the police be involved? Sex isn’t a crime, and nobody could be forced to take a test unless a crime had been committed. At some point someone would have to bring the charge of rape up and the two women would have to decide whether they wated to testify against Assange in court if such charges were laid against him. Withoout their agreement, nothing could be done.

        An ironic slant to the cases is that as Assange never denied having sex with either women, so he is the only witness as to what happened in both cases, the two women can only testify as to what happened in their particular case,

        The women’s identities were leaked after the accusations were made, which is the only logical sequence, as to exactly when, I’m not sure.

        As to your other point, would you go so far as to say Assange is lying? A lot of other people are suggesting he is an habitual liar. And whatever your opinion, a court will decide who is telling the truth, and little else. Therefore, whoever loses will be branded liar.

        It’s a real weirdo.

  3. Comment from Salma Yaqoob, Respect Party leader

    “Let me be clear, as a politician and as a woman. Rape occurs when a woman has not consented to sex. George Galloway’s comments on what constitutes rape are deeply disappointing and wrong.

    There are many political issues entwined in the case of Julian Assange. These issues cannot be used to diminish in any way the seriousness of any allegations against him. Any individual accused of a crime, sexual or otherwise, is innocent until proven guilty. By the same token, any individual who believes themselves to be a victim has a right to have their grievances heard in a fair manner and not have their allegations belittled or dismissed. This is the cornerstone of justice.

    This turn of events may well act to undermine Assange’s defence against those powerful forces keen to make an example of him for exposing the crimes of Empire. It has certainly taken the debate around violence against women a step backwards.”

    • I agree with Salma that “rape occurs when a woman has not consented to sex”. I have always held to the belief that NO means No. Always. But in this instance, again, from what I have read, the NO word was not used. Are we now in a world where silence means No? Where the absence of an explicit Yes means No? I can see us heading down the route of written pre-sex agreements before too long…..

  4. It’s rather disturbing that your definition of rape is basically the same as Todd Akins.

    You were kind enough to like a post I wrote about Rachel Corrie. Here’s one I wrote about the sense of entitlement.

    • I take real offence at being compared to that nutcase. I think my position is far more nuanced that a quick glance at the headline might suggest.

      • You write that for you, rape is “For me it has always meant forced sex with violence, or the menace of violence.”

        So merely forcing a woman to have sex isn’t rape if you don’t need to use violence?

        That’s Todd Akin’s view. And according to your introductory paragraph, it’s yours, too.

      • I can’t imagine how I could “force” anyone to to anything without some kind of menace or threat. With the exception of raping someone while they are unconscious or incapable. As I said elsewhere, I accept my wording may not have been very good or clear. I may rewrite that after feedback. Thanks.

      • Though having read your comment on my blog – thank you again! – No, Todd Akin wouldn’t react like that – I appreciate your willingness to reconsider your views.

  5. I can’t imagine how I could “force” anyone to to anything without some kind of menace or threat

    Assuming you are the kind of man with a massive sense of entitlement to whom what the woman wants doesn’t matter (and please note I’m not saying you are:

    1. You could set up a situation where, without saying a word of menace, you make clear to the woman there are unpleasant consequences to saying “no” to you. (a) You’re her boss or have influence in her career (b) You’re say the driver and you make a sexual proposition in the car miles from anywhere (c) you’re a lot bigger than your target, alone together, and she couldn’t physically stop you and you make that clear.

    2. As you say, you could just wait until she’s asleep and then do what you want.

    3. You could get angry and unpleasant if she says “no” until she learns from fear of your temper not to say “no” even if she really isn’t feeling anything sexual for you any more.

    4. In the context of a long-term relationship, you could become a nagger for sex such that your partner knows she won’t get any peace, once you demand sex, until she gives in. Then you can rape her regularly because she knows that she has no choice until the day she decides to ditch you. And you might be a very pleasant person otherwise. You can even tell yourself it’s not rape, even though she doesn’t want it, because she “consents” – ie she knows the consequences of saying “no” mean you will keep on at her and whine and moan and refuse to let her sleep no matter how tired she is, because you don’t care what she wants, only what you want.

    And that is the essence of rape. Overriding what the other person wants: just taking what you want.

    • Indeed. Thank you for that. And for helping educate this poor boy. I stand corrected. I will take all that into consideration when I update the blog post. Thanks again. I appreciate your time and patience 😉

    • PS, do you mind if I quote you liberally when I write a further clarification on my post?

  6. […] have had quite a bit of feedback following the publication of my blog post “It’s Rape, Jim.  But Not As We Know It.“   To all who took the time to offer me constructive criticism, thank you very much […]


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