We need to do more for rape victims

Top cop John Yates on why he believes more help for victims of sexual violence is needed, how police

More must be done to support all victims of crime, but especially those victims of rape and serious sexual assault. The way in which any society protects its victims of crime provides a barometer reading of that society’s standards of humanity and decency. The physical and emotional trauma associated with victims of sex crimes demands the very highest standards of care and support. Across the board we have made improvements but more can and should be done.

Commonly, we expect victims of sex offences to report their allegation immediately to police as the first stage of the criminal justice process. However, alarmingly, current research tells us that as few as one in 10 victims come forward to report crimes in this category. The hesitation or reluctance to notify police has numerous known explanations, including the difficulties associated with reporting a partner or someone known to them and with whom they share emotional, financial and lifestyle ties.

There are also, of course, other reasons, not least the uncertainty around their immediate future and the belief that their often uncorroborated testimony may be questioned or worse, disbelieved.

Whilst police efforts to replicate at least part of the therapeutic elements of voluntary support continue apace, there remains a gap in service provision. In the final analysis, the principal task of the police is to investigate when an allegation of crime is received. Experience tells us that victims of crime provide the best and fullest accounts when they feel most supported and have the confidence that all their various needs will be addressed.

The police can fill some of this requirement but are not equipped, nor arguably should they be expected to be, to fill all of them. A perceived less than supportive response, fuelled in part through the Service’s difficult history in this arena, through to a straightforward distrust are just some of the dilemmas victims must face when deciding what to do.

There is therefore a gap. This needs to be filled and sustained if victims of this type of crime are to feel valued in a society which for many years has regarded them as part of the criminal justice process or not at all.

What is required is an additional medium for victims to visit where they can feel safe and in which empathy and understanding can be provided along with practical advice on possible ways forward. This facility has long been in the hands of tireless, often unpaid, volunteers who give up their time to ensure that many victims across the UK can at last find a safe haven in this their greatest hour of need.

Efforts to engage the voluntary sector with the statutory agencies are well advanced in some areas and the respective chair of the National Rape Crisis Organisation and the Survivor’s Trust are members of the ACPO Working Group on Rape which I chair.

At local level Forces are encouraged to replicate national arrangements by working with support groups as part of their overarching strategy on sex offending.

The two ‘umbrella’ groups representing hundreds of voluntary sector support agencies, National Rape Crisis and Survivor’s Trust continue to provide a quality service to victims assisting them to move forward in their lives. This is not achieved though without a great deal of effort and personal sacrifice on behalf of the staff.

Funding arrangements to support this service are haphazard and crisis managed either through charitable donations or statutory agency support. This results in services that are erratic and inconsistent in their administration and are very often short-term expedients. This situation cannot be to the benefit of either the victims or for those providing this invaluable support.

What is required is a sustained effort to support the voluntary agencies in a more structured way so that there is longevity in approach. This would ensure that the necessary expertise is in place for those victims who seek support but not redress through the criminal justice process. This is a fundamental right for any individual in a civilised society.

In my capacity as lead on rape issues for ACPO I will do my level best to bring about sustainable change not only through the traditional criminal justice route but also through colleagues in the often beleaguered voluntary sector. Both elements have to be addressed without further delay if we are to provide a truly victim centred service.

John Yates is a Assistant Commissioner in the Metropolitan Police Service

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The New Times: Brexit, globalisation, the crisis in Labour and the future of the left

With essays by David Miliband, Paul Mason, John Harris, Lisa Nandy, Vince Cable and more.

Once again the “new times” are associated with the ascendancy of the right. The financial crash of 2007-2008 – and the Great Recession and sovereign debt crises that were a consequence of it – were meant to have marked the end of an era of runaway “turbocapitalism”. It never came close to happening. The crash was a crisis of capitalism but not the crisis of capitalism. As Lenin observed, there is “no such thing as an absolutely hopeless situation” for capitalism, and so we discovered again. Instead, the greatest burden of the period of fiscal retrenchment that followed the crash was carried by the poorest in society, those most directly affected by austerity, and this in turn has contributed to a deepening distrust of elites and a wider crisis of governance.

Where are we now and in which direction are we heading?

Some of the contributors to this special issue believe that we have reached the end of the “neoliberal” era. I am more sceptical. In any event, the end of neoliberalism, however you define it, will not lead to a social-democratic revival: it looks as if, in many Western countries, we are entering an age in which centre-left parties cannot form ruling majorities, having leaked support to nationalists, populists and more radical alternatives.

Certainly the British Labour Party, riven by a war between its parliamentary representatives and much of its membership, is in a critical condition. At the same time, Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership has inspired a remarkable re-engagement with left-wing politics, even as his party slumps in the polls. His own views may seem frozen in time, but hundreds of thousands of people, many of them young graduates, have responded to his anti-austerity rhetoric, his candour and his shambolic, unspun style.

The EU referendum, in which as much as one-third of Labour supporters voted for Brexit, exposed another chasm in Labour – this time between educated metropolitan liberals and the more socially conservative white working class on whose loyalty the party has long depended. This no longer looks like a viable election-winning coalition, especially after the collapse of Labour in Scotland and the concomitant rise of nationalism in England.

In Marxism Today’s “New Times” issue of October 1988, Stuart Hall wrote: “The left seems not just displaced by Thatcherism, but disabled, flattened, becalmed by the very prospect of change; afraid of rooting itself in ‘the new’ and unable to make the leap of imagination required to engage the future.” Something similar could be said of the left today as it confronts Brexit, the disunities within the United Kingdom, and, in Theresa May, a prime minister who has indicated that she might be prepared to break with the orthodoxies of the past three decades.

The Labour leadership contest between Corbyn and Owen Smith was largely an exercise in nostalgia, both candidates seeking to revive policies that defined an era of mass production and working-class solidarity when Labour was strong. On matters such as immigration, digital disruption, the new gig economy or the power of networks, they had little to say. They proposed a politics of opposition – against austerity, against grammar schools. But what were they for? Neither man seemed capable of embracing the “leading edge of change” or of making the imaginative leap necessary to engage the future.

So is there a politics of the left that will allow us to ride with the currents of these turbulent “new times” and thus shape rather than be flattened by them? Over the next 34 pages 18 writers, offering many perspectives, attempt to answer this and related questions as they analyse the forces shaping a world in which power is shifting to the East, wars rage unchecked in the Middle East, refugees drown en masse in the Mediterranean, technology is outstripping our capacity to understand it, and globalisation begins to fragment.

— Jason Cowley, Editor 

Tom Kibasi on what the left fails to see

Philip Collins on why it's time for Labour to end its crisis

John Harris on why Labour is losing its heartland

Lisa Nandy on how Labour has been halted and hollowed out

David Runciman on networks and the digital revolution

John Gray on why the right, not the left, has grasped the new times

Mariana Mazzucato on why it's time for progressives to rethink capitalism

Robert Ford on why the left must reckon with the anger of those left behind

Ros Wynne-Jones on the people who need a Labour government most

Gary Gerstle on Corbyn, Sanders and the populist surge

Nick Pearce on why the left is haunted by the ghosts of the 1930s

Paul Mason on why the left must be ready to cause a commotion

Neal Lawson on what the new, 21st-century left needs now

Charles Leadbeater explains why we are all existentialists now

John Bew mourns the lost left

Marc Stears on why democracy is a long, hard, slow business

Vince Cable on how a financial crisis empowered the right

David Miliband on why the left needs to move forward, not back

This article first appeared in the 22 September 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The New Times