Pin It
Rape guidelines address sexting and dating apps
Photography Jae Park, via Unsplash

Harmful myths about rape are addressed in new guidelines for prosecutors

The updated Crown Prosecution Service guidance partly aims to dispel newer stereotypes surrounding sexting and dating apps

Prosecutors across England and Wales will receive new guidance about common myths and stereotypes that could alter decisions made in rape or sexual assault cases. The new guidelines – published by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) October 19, and due to come into effect November 1 – follow criticism of the CPS for a sharp drop in the number of successful prosecutions over the last year.

In 2019-20, the number of rape convictions in England and Wales fell to a record low, half of that reported three years ago, and the lowest since tracking began in 2009. The CPS has previously been accused of contributing to the drop by changing the way rape cases are selected to be brought to court.

“Potentially it is sending out a message that rape is de-criminalised, virtually,” Harriet Wistrich, founder of the Centre for Women's Justice, told the BBC of the lower conviction rate back in July. “It is very unlikely that it will ever be prosecuted, particularly in cases where there is intoxication. What does that tell men who are determined to rape?”

The new guidance aims to address another reason that successful convictions have become less common: namely, the myths and commonly-accepted tropes that can shift blame from perpetrators to victims. Specifically, the CPS has published a list of such myths, breaking down their implications.

Some unfortunately familiar myths included on the list (which apparently still make it difficult for prosecutors to gauge consent) include: “The victim provoked rape and automatically provided consent by their dress/flirtatious behaviour” and “Rape is always violent or involves physical force”.

Elsewhere, the list includes misconceptions more tied to modern technology and culture, such as the idea that having sex is “inevitable” if you’ve sexted or sent nudes prior to meeting someone, or that: “If you meet men online or through hook-up apps you want sex and should be ready to offer sex.” 

“Meeting people via dating apps and social media and sending sexual images is increasingly common,” the CPS clarifies in the new guidelines. “Consent cannot be implied from just the method of meeting or messages.”

In light of the new guidelines, CPS rape lead Siobhan Blake says in a statement: “We very much recognise that the world is changing and the guidance that we issue needs to be constantly reviewed and updated to reflect this.”

“It is only by seeking to fully understand the impact of myths and stereotypes that we can seek to counter them,” she adds, “so victims can get the justice we all want to see.”