Stop rape, punish victims?

Britain cuts compensation for rape victims who were drunk at the time of their attack.

Published August 13, 2008 8:55PM (EDT)

We've heard how Britain is in "moral collapse" over rape, and how it has simply slapped rapists on the wrist and let them run free. But now it has come to light that some British officials decided to address the problem and punish ... rape victims. Officials at Britain's Criminal Injury Compensation Authority reduced the state payout for several rape victims who were drunk at the time of their attack. Within the last year, officials told 14 women that they were a "contributing factor" in their rape and, as the Daily Mail reports, their "standard taxpayer-funded payouts of £11,000 were cut by as much as a quarter."

CICA rules do allow for compensation cuts for crime victims who are believed to have provoked the attack -- for example, "by starting the fight in which they were injured," says the Mail. Apparently, a few officials interpreted that to also apply to women who drank alcohol -- and even those whose drink was spiked with a "date rape" drug -- before being raped. One woman, who believes her rapist spiked her drink, received a letter from the CICA notifying her that her "excessive consumption of alcohol" contributed to her rape. One could propose other contributing factors:

-- She is a woman
-- She is blond, which her attacker happens to prefer
-- She allowed herself outside after nightfall
-- She wasn't escorted by a male guardian
-- She wasn't wearing a frumpy, floor-length burlap sack
-- She got something in her eye and squinted, which her attacker took as a seductive wink

The list goes on and on. But those factors alone do not "contribute" to a rape without one rather significant element: the rapist.

Luckily, news of the compensation cuts stirred public outrage, and Justice Minister Bridget Prentice called for a formal inquiry. The Ministry of Justice also issued a statement saying, "This was a mistake in their interpretation of the guidelines." Maybe the guidelines need to be clarified.

By Tracy Clark-Flory

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