We hear a lot (probably more than we should) about false rape cases, but this story from Great Britain is certainly a bizarre twist on the theme. According to the Guardian, the woman called the police and said that she had been raped six times by her husband; the police then charged her husband with rape.
As the case proceeded, however, she decided that she wanted to drop the charges, even though she continued to maintain that they were true. She then said that she had lied about the charges, at which point she was arrested for “perverting the course of justice.” Finally, a few months later, she said that she had actually been raped, and that her denial was caused by “emotional blackmail” from her husband, from whom she is now divorced. She explained that her husband and family had convinced her to drop the charges, since he would receive a long jail sentence and she would not.
The woman is now appealing an 8-month jail sentence for “making a false retraction.” The judge chastised her for wasting a “substantial amount” of time and money for the police, and explained that she would have received a 2-year sentence for false rape charges. She’s currently in prison pending her appeal, although her lawyer is trying to get her out on bail.
What astonishes me here is the absence of the rapist, who apparently pleaded not guilty to rape in an earlier hearing. The fact that this woman was first assaulted (multiple times!) and then subjected to extreme emotional trauma by her family more than excuses any resources she may have “wasted,” and the whole case sends a horrifying message to rape victims, who are often subjected to these kinds of pressures by their families and perpetrators.
Holly Dustin, director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, explained, “Imprisoning a woman for a ‘false retraction’ of a rape allegation sends out a chilling message that the criminal justice system is still in the dark ages in relation to sexual violence and does not understand the pressure women come under from perpetrators during the legal process.”
The worst part of the case is that the woman was willing to cover for her rapist by going to jail. And the court responded, not by sending a message to sexual assault perpetrators who threaten and coerce victims to stay silent, but by punishing the victim herself. It’s a blatant case of victim-blaming, conducted by the British judicial system. We can only hope that the appeal is successful, and that this case doesn’t turn into some kind of terrible precedent.
Photo from Flickr.