Sexual Violence

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2006 National Women's Conference
8 February 2006

Conference notes with concern the findings of the ICM opinion poll commissioned by Amnesty International which indicates that a third of people in the United Kingdom believe that a woman is partially or totally responsible for being raped.

The Amnesty report Sexual Assault Research published on 21 November 2005 shows that 26 per cent of those surveyed thought that a woman was partially or fully responsible for being raped if she was wearing revealing clothing. Thirty per cent thought that a woman was partially or totally responsible for being raped if she was drunk and 37 per cent held the same view if the woman had failed to clearly say “no”.

Conference also notes with concern the outcome of the recent case heard at Swansea Crown Court on 23 November 2005 which held that the alleged victim of rape was so drunk that although she did not believe she did not consent, it was held that drunken consent was still consent. This decision undermines the Sexual Offences Act 2003, which came into force to overhaul the law on sexual offences.

Conference believes that victims of sexual violence are being let down by the Criminal Justice System. With public opinion and the Criminal Justice System laying the blame with the victim of these offences, it is a wonder that any of these cases ever reach the courtroom or provide women with justice.

At present, only 5.6 per cent of rapes reported to the police result in a conviction. This does not help build confidence in the Criminal Justice System, the judiciary and/or juries. Rape is a violation of the human rights of women as is the continued and repeated failure of the justice and legal systems to provide appropriate and effective redress. All forms of violence against women, including rape, are an affront to the notions of equality and justice.

Conference believes that much more needs to be done if women are to have equal access to justice. Conference calls upon the National Women’s Committee to make violence against women a priority in its work over the next year. In particular, Conference calls on the Committee to take the following actions to:

1)fully support calls for more funding and resources for women’s organisations providing counselling and legal advice to women survivors of sexual violence;

2)undertake work which will raise awareness amongst men and women members of UNISON of the implications of sexual violence and the impact this has on its victims. The awareness campaign should address the myths surrounding this form of violence against women;

3)raise at each and every level, the concerns of Conference regarding the treatment of women subjected to sexual violence, the reason for low conviction rates and dealing with sexist blame culture.

4)devise a strategy for developing the work of the National Women’s Committee and regional women’s groups on violence against women including sexual violence;

5)work in conjunction and partnership with women’s groups currently working in the area of sexual violence.