Everyday Victim Blaming

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.@BBCthree response to our complaint about #sexontrial – complete with victim blaming.

This is the response from the BBC to our complaint about the program Is this rape? Sex on Trial. The limit on characters means we cannot put in a proper evidenced complaint. We will be raising this issue further, but we encourage everyone to send in formal complaints so that the BBC understands the breadth of anger at this irresponsible and misleading program. We have written our response in italics.

Reference CAS-3553817-3KRFG4

Thanks for contacting us regarding BBC Three’s ‘Is This Rape? Sex On Trial’ on 2 November.

We flagged up your complaint to the Executive producer of the programme who responded to your points as follows:

1. It failed to legally define rape and sexual assault under English/ Welsh law & did not address difference in laws in Scotland

Response: “The programme did define rape in the barrister’s interview – she set out the three stage test for prosecution very clearly.”

The barrister went through the three stage test. She did not give a full legal definition of rape and sexual assault. It was clear that a number of the young people did not understand her point.

2. It misrepresented how a criminal trial proceeds by having the defendant testify first.

Response: “This was a drama rather than an actual reconstruction of one single case. The facts within the drama were, however, based on real cases.”

It misrepresented the criminal trial by having the defendant testify before the victim and be showing questions not legally allowed.

3. It was set up as a "debate" on rape when the law is very clear on the definition of rape.

Response: “The law may be clear however it has been repeatedly shown that there is confusion around consent and rape among young people, the programme was designed to explore that confusion and to find out more about where that confusion resides. We have already been contacted by Councils and Universities who are interested in the findings of the programme.”

There is quite clear evidence of confusion about consent and rape amongst young people. This program did not nothing to alleviate that confusion,

4. It failed to challenge numerous myths, such as what a rapist looks like & who commits rape.

Response: “We took this myth head on by making the perpetrator a former boyfriend of the complainant.”

That is one myth and it was clear at the end that many of young people still struggled to understand that a former partner was the same as a rapist as seen in the number who thought calling a convicted rapist a rapist was cruel.

5. It suggested that false accusations of rape are as common as rape allegations when false accusations are less than 2%.

Response: “We specifically stated in the commentary that incidents of false accusations of rape are rare.”

They used the term not common, not rare. At no point did the program make it clear that false accusations are less than 2% and include cases where the victim withdraws the accusation or misidentifies the attacker. 

6. It allowed young women to make numerous disclosures of sexual violence during the 'debate' without any safeguarding undertaken.

Response: “During the event there were 2 female chaperones and a trained Child Psychologist on site at all times. In addition, the young person concerned attended the event with the full consent of her parents. She was very happy with the process before and since watching the programme.”

A trained child psychologist who allowed multiple children to make multiple disclosures of sexual assault without them recognising that was what they were doing? We're quite annoyed by this.

7. It focused on the consequences to the perpetrator and failed to discuss the impact on the victim.

Response: “The depiction in the drama showed how traumatic the experience was for the complainant, in addition, we brought as a witness a woman who had been raped who talked about her experiences and the impact on her life. This was a crucial factor in getting the young people to look at this side of the story.”

The vast majority of the program concerned the perpetrator and his feelings. At numerous points, including after the legal briefing, the young people were worried about the impact on the perpetrator's life if we were labeled a rapist or sent to prison. The victim was not mentioned once in these discussions.

8. It suggested that an acquittal was the same as a false allegation, which is legally incorrect.

Response: “We did not.”

They did.

9. It failed to accurately define consent in law.

Response: “The barrister explained the law to the young people. Our drama had an individual who did not say no, who had a previous relationship, who had sent suggestive messages, and who let the individual into her bed - yet the perpetrator was convicted. These circumstances, added to the words of the barrister who explained that the important thing is whether consent is given at a certain moment, meant that the young people understood the law.”

And, here we have some excellent victim blaming by the producer, which pretty much sums up everything wrong with the program.

10. It did not explain the fact that the majority of rapists are known to the victim.

Response: “In fact, this fact was made clear by every case shown – the drama and the rape victim who came as a witness had both been raped by someone they knew.”

They showed two rapes were the perpetrator was known to the victim, but aired numerous statements by the young people who clearly believed, even at the end of the program, that the vast majority of rapists are not known to the victim.

We hope this helps to clarify matters. Thank you again for contacting us about this.

Kind regards,

BBC Audience Services

You can make a formal complaint to the BBC by following this link.

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2 thoughts on “.@BBCthree response to our complaint about #sexontrial – complete with victim blaming.

  • Hecuba says:

    ‘Response: “The barrister explained the law to the young people. Our drama had an individual who did not say no, who had a previous relationship, who had sent suggestive messages, and who let the individual into her bed – yet the perpetrator was convicted. These circumstances, added to the words of the barrister who explained that the important thing is whether consent is given at a certain moment, meant that the young people understood the law.”

    So according to BBC representative this means the female victim was responsible for causing her own rape – not the male sexual predator – because she didn’t say no; she had a previous (sexual) relationship; she sent suggestive messages and horrors – she supposedly “let the male sexual predator into her bed!’ Did the BBC forget any male created women-hating lies? I think not because men believe a woman’s ‘character and creditability is defined by her sexual history. Therefore if a woman isn’t ‘sexually pure as defined by mens’ morality’ then she is ‘an innate liar who routinely falsely charges males with rape!’ Men’s ‘creditability and respectability’ is viewed by their public personae – aka if they are pillars of their male communities – not their personal sexual history.

    Innumerable male victims of male violence – don’t say no to the male perpetrator; male victims of male violence often have had previous sexual relationships and innumerable male victims of male assault often didn’t say ‘no’ before the violent male attacked them. Are all these male victims responsible for males’ agency and choice to subject them to male violence?

  • Jane osmond says:

    Couldn’t watch it – too triggering. Had different feedback from different audiences. However I despair when programme makers don’t consult the experts such as rape crisis centres or EVB – if they had I would have watched it secure in the knowledge that the content would have been influenced by people who deal with sexual violence day in and day out.