Digital strip search: police to seize devices of those who report rape or sexual assault

Digital strip search: police to seize devices of those who report rape or sexual assault

May 21, 2019 0 By Marxist Student

 

At the end of last month, 43 police forces across England and Wales introduced powers enabling the police to seize the digital devices of those coming forward to report rape or sexual assault. A victim’s mobile phone and laptop can be confiscated for indefinite periods of time, enabling the state to access any information on those devices. Victims who refuse are threatened with having their case dropped. The policy has been likened to a ‘Digital Strip Search’.

This policy is a reminder of the inadequacy of the legal system to deal with violence against women. It’ll lead to people not wanting to hand over their phones (for fear of being prosecuted for other things) and so those who assault will not be punished.

Already, according to Home Office figures, the proportion of rape offences that led to a charge stood at less than 2% by December 2018, compared with an 8% average for all crimes, while over the past 3 years the number of rapes recorded rose by 40%. This new policy will only make those figures even worse.

It’s no surprise that bourgeois justice can’t stop attacks on women. It’s designed to defend class society, which is the root cause of the oppression of women.

Women have been degraded to a position of servitude, becoming the slave of lust and an instrument of the production of children since the beginnings of class society.

Today, the oppression of women is a key feature of the capitalist system. It keeps domestic labour privatised in the home, and justifies things like the gender pay gap which pits male and female workers against each other. This oppression, so useful to the capitalist system, is reinforced through culture and the media, among other things.

The impact of this was on display in the legal system last year. A female rape victim in Cork, Ireland had her underwear held up and passed around the court, supposedly to prove she was promiscuous enough to have consented to rape. The defence lawyer argued her underwear proved she was ‘open to meeting someone’.

That woman’s underwear was scandalously displayed as her ‘invitation’ for sex. The blame for this presentation does not fall on the shoulders of the defence lawyer alone, but rather a society that profits off the objectification of women. A society that reduces women to objects of sexual desire, demands they perform that objectification through relentless media pressure, then attempts to use it as evidence of their own depravity.

This appalling behaviour played on the lies and stereotypes designed to oppress women in class society. Clearly this is something from which the law courts are not immune. The bourgeois legal system is enmeshed in this oppression just as much as any other aspect of capitalist society.

These digital strip searches are the latest blatant example of this. Another case in Belfast last year, saw a victims clothing passed around the jury for examination.

Ched Evans was a welsh footballer accused of rape in 2011, who was eventually acquitted after the complainant’s past sexual history was used as evidence in the trial. Two previous sexual partners of the victim came forward to testify that the victim’s behaviour with Ched Evans was similar to the behaviour displayed during previous consensual acts.

To use a woman’s previous sexual history, as evidence against a case of assault is an example of deep-rooted notions in society around gender roles and sexual propriety. These ideas are produced in order to justify the bourgeois family model that places women at home, burdened with domestic work and producing children as their job. Any form of agency outside that (in this case sexuality) is to be vilified and condemned.

According to the crime survey for England and Wales, five out of six victims (of assault and rape) do not go to the police, largely because they fear a lengthy and intrusive investigation. The fact is, these digital searches will only entrench this.

Violence against women will not be solved by the police, the courts, or any other capitalist institution. The roots of the problem go far deeper. For sexual violence and misogyny to be crushed once and for all, capitalism and class society must fall too.

Alexander Barry