Daily Mail Rape Chronicles: Trawling the Archives

Saturday, 26 June 2010

This past weekend I spent some time trawling the archives on the Daily Mail website. Thankfully I only needed to do a couple of searches and it didn't take too long, but what I found most definitely proves the point I was making in my previous post - and that post I made back in January which was also featured in a piece entitled Media bias, courtroom misogyny and police incompetence: how rapists get away with it on The F Word.

What it's easy to see is that while coverage of 'cry rape' cases is not a new thing, the frequency with which they are covered and the venom reserved for the women involved has increased dramatically since the beginning of 2009. I'm not the only one who's noticed that the Mail gets more anti-woman with each month that passes and the disproportionate coverage of these cases combined with their sensationalist headlines and scores of misogynistic, victim-blaming comments are obviously a major factor in this.

Back in 2008 a report entitled Just Representation? Press Reporting and the Reality of Rape concluded that the way rape cases are reported is distorting public opinion and jurors' decisions. The report, commissioned by the Lilith Project, identified the media construct of rape, its propensity to victim-blame and the disproportionate coverage of 'cry rape' cases, attacks made by foreign men and attacks on very young girls. You can find it in PDF format here. The 'research' I undertook at the weekend showed that more than two years on, nothing has changed and that in fact, the situation is worse.

The 2008 report suggested that media depictions of what constitutes 'believeable' - and 'obviously made-up' rape scenarios mean that jurors are more likely to see less 'sensational' rape allegations as untrue or 'not rape'. If that was 2008 I can only imagine how perceptions might have changed.

The following stories have been published since the proposals to grant anonymity to rape defendants first received coverage in the Mail on May 21st, along with several stories on the debates over the proposal itself:

June 25th: Lying mother jailed after making up nightclub rape claim
June 18th: Wicked woman saw four innocent men arrested after slashing her own face and crying rape
June 18th: Innocent man jailed for three years over false rape claim - despite police knowing 'victim' was a fantasist
June 11th: Mother who falsely accused policeman of rape after he spurned her advances is jailed for two years
June 8th: Woman cried rape to escape driving ban after crashing boyfriend's car
June 2nd: One man killed himself, the other had his life destroyed. All because one girl falsely cried rape. So what does she have to say for herself?
May 25th: Jurors in tears as they clear student of rape - then discover another man falsely accused by same 'victim' had killed himself

Looking back before that date, I came across the following stories:
May 10th: Mother of three jailed after making false gang rape claims - to win back her former lover
5th March 2010: Mother of three who faked elaborate rape scenes 'for attention' jailed for two years
16th February 2010: Woman who cried rape after sex in public toilet walks free from court
19th January 2010: Cry rape businesswoman who falsely accused father of two is jailed for 18 months
5th December 2009: Cheating wife cried rape in text message to husband after fit of guilt over affair
7th November 2009: Nursery assistant who cried rape is jailed for four months because 'she made genuine sex attack victims looks like liars'
6th November 2009: Girl 'cried rape after living out fantasy of having sex with two strangers'
2nd November 2009: Student falsely accused of raping woman changed his identity to start new life abroad
1st November 2009: Woman who cried rape after sex with man she met online is jailed for nine months
14th August 2009: Cry-rape girl, 20, dragged man into toilets for sex to claim £7,500 compensation
22nd July 2009: Mother who cried rape after meeting man on dating website is jailed for two years
16th July 2009: Former magistrate cleared of rape sues his accuser for £300,000
3rd July 2009: Mother falsely accused husband of rape because 'she wanted him out of her life'
2nd July 2009: 'Cry rape woman stuffed tights in her mouth and tied herself up to fake attack'
30th June 2009: Policeman's daughter 'cried rape after night with ex-lover'
21st May 2009: Court rules taxi driver falsely accused of rape can receive compensation in legal first
2nd April 2009: Man cleared of rape after court shown phone footage of woman 'actively' taking part in sex
27th March 2009: Thank God I'm free, says chef cleared of raping woman who was too drunk to remember. But my name has been dragged through the mud
25th March 2009: Man accused of a rape that his lawyer victim 'was too drunk to remember'
25th January 2009: BBC personality made 40 false rape allegations against her ex-boyfriend whose life remains blighted by her lies
23rd December 2008: Fantasist 'cry rape mother' who wasted 7,000 police hours and cost taxpayers £300,000 is jailed
17th September 2008: My cry-rape hell': Wrongly accused man tells of his 11-month nightmare
29th August 2008: Jail for Wren who cried rape after seducing her former lover
25th August 2008: Binge-drinking mother jailed after crying rape against devout Muslim taxi driver
18th August 2008: Woman jailed for making false rape claim to get back at family after row during night out
29th July 2008: 'Wicked' woman who ruined a marriage by crying rape jailed for four months
8th April 2008: Schoolgirl escapes prosecution after false rape claim
7th March 2008: Woman who cried rape five times is spared jail for perverting the course of justice
12th February 2008: Jail for young mother who cried rape to cover up her secret one-night stand
13th November 2007: Woman who falsely cried rape EIGHT times is spared jail
14th June 2007: Lovesick lesbian cried rape to frame an innocent man
12th May 2007: Woman 'cried rape to justify lover's attack on ex-boyfriend'
23rd April 2007: Two months for girl whose rape lie ruined cabbie's life
24th March 2007: Lesbian accuses innocent stranger of rape to win back lover
16th March 2007: Jilted lover who lied about rape is jailed

As we move through 2009 and into 2010, it's easy to see how the coverage becomes more frequent and the headlines more sensationalist. I'm not even going to go there on the subject of rape allegations made by and against celebrities, because there's a common theme in the comments made by readers - that if the allegation is made by a female celebrity, she 'must be doing it for attention/to revive an ailing career' and if the allegation is made against a male celebrity, the woman 'must have made it up to cash in/become famous'.

Even the general coverage of rape as an issue has an overriding theme. Here's a Melanie Phillips special which highlights several 'false accusation' stories - and here are just some of the paper's news stories relating to rape:

Notice the way the headlines focus on what women think of rape victims - possibly an attempt to show that *everyone* (not just men) think that rape victims are attention-seeking liars. Notice too the patronising attitude of the stories concerning rape victims who had been drinking or claim to have date-raped. Other newspapers do it, but for the Mail, it's an obsession.

Unfortunately, we know that this coverage influences thinking. It influences decisions made by politicians. If people are reading an - at LEAST weekly - installment of the Mail's False Accusation Chronicles and victim-blaming diatribes and believing that this constitutes an accurate representation of most rape cases...well, we have a problem.

Further reading: Daily Mail & Rape, a post at Angry Mob.


sianandcrookedrib said...

don't envy you that job.

i think we can present this to some kind of PCC related board or the govt as they debate anonymity, against the true stats for rape, conviction and false accusation. it clearly shows horrific bias.

gherkingirl said...

Thank you for collating all this. You deserve a medal for sifting through the DM archives!

As a rape victim who had her compensation case covered in the national press and was vilified in the Mail by Peter Hitchens for being a drunken slut, I really do feel the Mail are the biggest bunch of rape apologists in the country and a real danger to justice since so many jurors read this and believe it.

However, I think anonymity for defendants might actually rob the Mail etc of their favourite lines of women deliberately ruining men's lifes with 'false' allegations. Hard to slander someone who can't named.

I think the anonymity ideas have some merits, but I'm unhappy about why and how they are being introduced. I wrote my views here http://gherkinette.blogspot.com/2010/05/feminist-hulk-has-nothing-on-me-right.html

Great blog by the way!

cim said...

I add my thanks to you for going through all these - I wouldn't want to spend that long reading the Mail.

I was able to use your list to see if any of these cases were previously reported in such a way that the suspects would benefit from the government's anonymity proposals. (Of the cases you listed, only two of them would have, neither particularly significantly)

I also found this disturbing report, which shows what the Mail does when alleged rapists are granted anonymity.

Pulseczar said...

It would be fascinating if, for one week, the Male reported on all the successful convictions for rape and sexual assault. And the sentences passed. It would also cause the Male to implode, so it's a win-win.

Of course, the vast majority of rape cases do not make interesting journalism, which is why no-one bothers with reporting them. But even a list of names (even 'John Doe, 35, Salisbury') and the sentence handed down would make for a decent counterpoint to the 'lying harpies' hysteria, no?

Hannah Mudge said...

Sian - this is what i'm thinking - contrast it with stats and info about the way the paper has treated victims that it's done stories on (there are a few tales out there!). Will definitely keep you posted!

gherkingirl, thanks for linking to your story. Doing this post really made it clear to me that the Mail is basically obsessed with victim-blaming and demonising the woman at all costs and you're absolutely right - jurors probably read it and believe it.

cim, great blog post! I've linked it in a few places and tweeted about it because it really does show how the Mail's support of anonymity is flawed - and how they actually don't care about the majority of cases, choosing only to cover those which show women in the worst light possible. I was interested to read more about Gail Sherwood's story and will keep you posted on what happens next. I'm currently planning to take this further but am unsure of details at the present time.

Pulseczar, you're right about why the Mail doesn't report most rape cases - obviously your average rape case isn't exciting enough because without a 'cry rape' situation or some particularly grisly details to talk about, it's not much of a story as far as the paper is concerned. Totally agree though - there needs to be some balance, otherwise it seems that *all* rape cases end up being thrown out because the woman has been proved to be lying.

gherkingirl said...

Hannah, I think this is a really great piece that exposes a major bias and raises some big questions (like how well do the Mail cover stories like today's censure of the officers on the Kirk Reid case?)

But...I'd be very interested to know how many of the cases you collated originally appeared in local press naming the alleged attacker before it was picked up on by the Mail? I know my local paper names plenty of men accused, but as you say the cases aren't neccesarily salacious enough to make the nationals.

I think this needs to be looked at before decisions are made on anonymity being applied. Local stigma is still a big issue. Sadly I just don't know how to go about collecting this togther. Without defending the Mail, only the juiciest murders make the big papers too, but I don't think they are condoning homicide.(Although I wouldn't like to stake my reputation on that!)

lipsticklori said...

I thought thsi was probably the case, but to see it laid out bare like this is still shocking. Their coverage is awful but their recent headlines are unbelievable! Lying mother, wicked woman, innocent man... that only sends out one message. The Mail clearly thinks that rape doesn't exist, all women want sex and anyone who says they didn't want it is a liar. WTF?


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