Julian Assange, Tony Benn, and the definition of rape

3:10: in defence of Julian Assange, Benn believes “a non-consensual relationship is very different from rape.” I think not. Given that the majority of rapes are carried out by people known to the victim – most commonly their spouse or partner – a “non-consensual relationship” is the circumstance in which rape is most likely to occur.  Seems Benn would rather quibble over semantics than deal with facts, saying that Julian Assange says all he did was not use a condom which, Benn says – delighted with his own wit – that if that were the definition of rape, “a lot of people in this country would be guilty of rape on a daily basis”.  There’s a backstory to that Benn apparently considers irrelevant: Assange’s refusal to use a condom may have been against the wishes of the woman – based on that aspect alone, the sex was non-consensual. He also seems not have realised that sex without a condom is classified as sexual assault in Sweden where the incidents took place. Benn’s comments, defence of Assange, and attitude towards rape serve to trivialise the trauma of the victims, show support for rapists, and impede the prosecution of them. I wrote and told him.

As the case continues, amid cries from Assange and his defenders of the rape accusations being politically motivated and designed to discredit him (to quote Mandy Rice-Davies, “he would say that, wouldn’t he”) Assange has been granted asylum in Ecuador. No one, it seems, has thought to consult the people of Ecuador on how they feel about having a man accused of rape and sexual assault picking their country as his destination of choice for asylum. Seems making a grand international statement, purporting to be in defence of free speech is more important than actually letting people speak.

The same applies to the women accusing Assange. Given the appalling treatment rape victims receive when they report the crime, it’s unlikely the women would risk such treatment if there were no truth to the accusations. On the other hand, if they are making it all up, someone has, most likely, coerced them into making the accusations just to make a political point. That’s a backstory I’d be interested in hearing about. If anyone’s a victim in this case, it is the women, either as victims of rape or of coercion as political pawns.

2 thoughts on “Julian Assange, Tony Benn, and the definition of rape

  1. This suggests that misunderstanding, disrespect and miscommunication in sex as well as rape and sexual assault persist outside of the capacity of a courtroom or the current legal system to deal with it. This makes it a social and political problem that needs to be dealt with accordingly. Rape and sexual violence needs to be talked about, it should be condemned and perpetrators should be held to account. But given all of the above, it shouldn’t automatically follow that we agitate for the state or the law to be given more power. Our political responses should reflect that. Perhaps one of the problems we have in making this argument is we find it very difficult to conceive of a way to see justice done in individual cases without recourse to existing institutions and legal bodies. But the first way to do that is to stop pretending that those bodies have any real capacity or inclination to administer justice in instances of sexual assault and rape. Or, indeed, that the state has any interest in overturning those very structures that enable them to continue.

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