On the Rape Compensation Thing


Well this little piece of news has left me just a bit flabbergasted. It seems that the amount of compensation paid out to rape victims is based on whether they had consumed alcohol prior to the time of rape. 

A recent case involving a rape victim who happened to have her drink spiked was awarded a reduced compensation payout on account of her alcohol consumption.  Now fair enough, the judges have since had an attack of common-sense and the payment cut has been revoked so she will now recieve the standard payment of £11,000.  But is it just me or does anyone else think that whether she’d had her drink spiked or whether she had voluntarily got drunk, it should not have any bearing on her right not to get raped?  Ok, the rape itself isn’t in question but really, what kind of message are we sending out to rapists when we measure our victim compensation payouts based on their alchohol consumption. 

Ok, I get that very drunk people are less capable of looking after themselves or fending off attackers etc.  and that they ought to realise the irresponsibility of getting rat-faced on a night out but the responsibility for rape should fall clearly at the foot of the perpetrator of the crime.  But don’t you think also that it’s a bit like telling rapists that it’s not as bad to rape girls who are drunk?  And are we not totally deterring rape victims from coming forward to report the crime for fear that they will be judged and made to feel ashamed because they’ had a drink or two and got a bit drunk?  Hell-fire, the existing system is bad enough for them as it stands!

Compare this to the recent award given to the trainee football star who recieved £4 million for having his career cut short by a nasty tackle during a football game.  Whether the award is right or wrong I don’t know.  I haven’t given it enough thought to have an opinion either way but I can’t help comparing it the standard compensation award of £11,000 given to rape victims. 

The footballer has possibly been deprived of huge earning potential.  But if we can say that rape victims who voluntarily drink excessively should know the score before they get drunk thus should be held partly accountable then we could also argue that the football player was on that football field voluntarily and he too knew the risks.  And in any case, how can we know for sure that he wouldn’t have broken his legs in a skiing accident?  Or isn’t there every possibility that he might have thrown his career away on drug and alcohol abuse?  And what about rape victims earning potential?  How can we be sure that the mental trauma won’t affect their ability to work in the future? 

£11,000 for being raped.  £4.3M for a leg broken in two places.  I know which I’d prefer.

It’s a man’s world.  Well it’s a mad world anyway, that’s for sure.

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17 responses to this post.

  1. I didn’t understand why that footballer got any so-called compensation at all. Who paid him anyway?

    I heard the Justice minister being interviewed this morning on R4 about the rape compensation case. She said that there is no way that there should be alink with alcohol levels drunk and level of compensation and said the other 13 (I think) cases should be ajusted as well.

    Reply

  2. Hi Matt,

    Well I think the football club whose player was responsible for the tackle which broke his leg will be footing the bill via their insurers. Still a ludicrous amount of money for a huge assumption that he would have gone on to earn potloads of money. And it doesn’t end there . . . in October there will be a hearing to determine a payout to compensate for his loss of pension and the interest lost on his earnings. My goodness! It’s not like he can’t ever get another job!

    Rape victim compensation would probably come out of the public purse. That’s the difference I guess.

    Reply

  3. The comparison with the footballer doesn’t make sense, because there are two completely different forms of ‘compensation’ going on here.

    If you are injured by someone, then you can sue them for damages. This is what happened in the case of the footballer – he sued the opposing team for damages, and they paid the £millions settlement. It’s also what is currently happening in the case of Ioworth Hoare, the rapist who subsequently won a fortune on the lottery – his victim will, once the case has been through the courts, also receive a large sum in damages.

    Entirely separately, if you are injured by someone who doesn’t have the assets to sue or who can’t be traced anyway, then the State pays you a much more limited sum in compensation, which is set by law. If the footballer had had his leg broken by an untraced or penniless thug with an iron bar, he’d have received a £5k maximum payout, precisely because the legal system *does* recognise that having your leg broken is less bad than being raped.

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  4. Hi John,

    Yes, you’re right, it’s an incorrect comparison. Anything for dramatic effect. But seriously, it’s a ludicrous amount based on a huge assumption of his potential earnings. It must be frustrating for victims of violent crime to learn of these huge damages awards when they themselves are powerless to sue and can only recieve at best the states maximum payout.

    Interestingly, the largest payout to a nurse who recieved a back injury at work was £800,000 but the nurse was a highly valued worker whose career was well established and his future earnings loss was clearly measurabe. Many other nurses get nothing because the hospital boards deny liability.

    But my main point was the ridiculous and irresponsible suggestion that standard compensation awards should be lowered for rape victims who have consumed alcohol.

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  5. Posted by George V on August 13, 2008 at 11:15 am

    I entirely second John B’s point

    Moreover, the fact that compensation for rape is paid by the state rather than the rapist has an impact on the central question of whether the award should be reduced because the victim was drunk.

    The rapist was no less culpable because the victim was drunk – indeed he may have been more culpable if, as the victim claimed, her drink had been spiked. But, drunk or sober, the state did not cause the rape to take place. The state (the agent of all citizens) makes the payment not because it is responsible but because the victim may need help putting her life back together. The payment does not fully compensate the victim for her distress – for that to happen, being raped and then compensated would need to be the same as not having been raped at all – an impossible equivalency.

    Any payment from the state could reasonably be reduced if it was reasonable to consider that the victim had acted irresponsibly or failed to take reasonable steps to ensure her own safety. To take an absurd example, a man who was severely beaten in a pub by a mob might be due compensation from the state. That compensation might reasonably be reduced if he was wearing a rangers strip and singing sectarian songs and the pub was right next to Ibrox Park.

    The question then is whether getting drunk is irresponsible or represents a failure to take reasonable precautions to ensure your safety. A utilitarian might argue that women are more likely to be raped when they are drunk and that drinking does therefore reduce the state’s liability. However, a more civilised human being would recognise that being more vulnerable to rape is not the same as provoking or inviting rape. If this were the case, compensation for old ladies who are robbed by muggers would have to be reduced because old ladies are so easy to mug. Such a reduction would not, I think reflect the values of citizens in this country and the state should not therefore make it.

    Similarly, state compensation for rape should not be affected by the question of whether the victim was drunk or not.

    Since this seems to be the conclusion now reached by the relevant state agencies, all would appear to be well.

    Even so, I must admit that I thought the arguments used by the victim’s solicitor in order to get to this position were bizarre in the extreme – that a reduction in the award on the basis of drunkenness was a form of sex discrimination for example.

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  6. Thanks George V. A jolly deep and good analysis of the thing.

    I’m not too sure that all is well yet though. The payment cut was revoked in one particular case but others have gone before that have not been overturned – fourteen in the past year. And I’d like some proper reassurances from the CICA that it will get rid of the clause that allows for this reduced payout to back up their statements saying it’s not their policy to reduce payments based on alcohol consumption.

    And also, you suggest that payment reduction might be reasonable where provocation is a factor but this could prove to be highly contentious in a rape victim payout. Provocation could be invoked if a rape victim had been dancing sexily in a night club prior to her rape. This would be wrong of course but it doesn’t stop it from being used often by defence lawyers so why not with the CICA?

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  7. Yup, I also agree with George V on reflection.

    On provocation, I guess the question is, where do you draw the line between “things which it’s perfectly reasonable to do”, and “singing Orange songs outside Ibrox”? ‘Cos surely we all agree that the bloke in the latter case should get less…?

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  8. Sometimes likening offences opens our eyes as to the consideration our societies give those offences, and nobody can deny that the question of rape – or of violence in genders – is a hypersensitive issue these days. For too long women have been considered as of a lower status than the rest of humans, in too many cases even some animals have been given a higher rank in that scale, and it’s about time some Judges could be given a rap on their knuckles when they forget hat raping a woman is not only raping her but also a violation of all her rights, and a serious attack on her psychological and psychiatric foundations.

    Which makes me think of that daring coach who had his leg broken, or of a matador who is killed or wounded by a bull, or of a soldier who her/his country sends abroad to fight a war she/he does not understand.

    Unfortunately the law forgets the rights of all of us in given cicumstances, circumstances that do not appear advisable to deal with.

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  9. John B, yes would hesitantly agree that provocation probably can be a factor (in non-rape cases), but really, violence is rarely justified.

    Jose, I absolutely agree that rape is a violation on many levels. And nothing can be set in stone . . . all the circumstances must be considered for each individual act.

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  10. Provacation? Oh for gods sake, rape is rape is rape. It is not acceptable whatsoever. George V, you’re being provacative, period.

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  11. The only exception I can admit in rape is that the aggressor be mad. Not even alcohol must be an excuse in any case. But even being mad, there is a heavy responsilibity on the part of those who have let the aggressor loose.

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  12. Yes, Jose, a rapist with severe mental health problems must be considered seperately – and accountability should lie with the authorities-that-be.

    Of course compensation still applies for the victim.

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  13. Matt, I agree. Rape is rape. I think George V is actually in agreement.

    There is never any justification. It’s a sad fact though that defence lawyers use provocation to defend the accused rapist. Even down to the way the girl was dressed at the time. Shameful.

    If the rapist is convicted then the standard compensation payout should apply. There are no levels of rape. Rape is rape and a conviction is a conviction.

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  14. Posted by ejenne on August 16, 2008 at 11:42 pm

    A very interesting and informative discussion. Thanks for opening the topic earthpal.

    Reply

  15. Thanks ejenne.

    Noce to hear from you. Where the heckers are you these days? I rarely go on Facebook and I can’t find your blog.

    Reply

  16. Posted by ejenne on August 23, 2008 at 2:17 pm

    Hi again earthpal, the new blog (still in its infancy) is up and running at http://souffle.wordpress.com

    Reply

  17. Hi ejenne, I will change the link in the blogroll. Then I will visit your blog and catch up with your goings-on.

    Reply

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