The Malta Independent 18 June 2024, Tuesday
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‘No place is safe’: Women’s lobby ‘shocked’ by police rape case outcome

Wednesday, 22 March 2023, 15:56 Last update: about 2 years ago

The Malta Women’s Lobby, together with the undersigned organisations, said it is beyond shocked at the manner in which a rape victim has been discredited and punished, after she had the courage to come forward and report her aggressor. This is nothing but a blow and an insult to all rape victims, the lobby said in a statement.

It was referring to a court judgment in which a former police officer was acquitted of charges of raping a colleague.

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According to media reports, Judge Scerri Herrera ruled that the “rape victim's version was not credible” and that “because there were no eyewitnesses, the alleged rape victim's testimony could not be corroborated”. Should  rape trauma experts have been consulted, perhaps they could have explained that research repeatedly shows that victims often make mistakes with regards to the timeline of events, precisely because such events are so traumatic.  Additionally, since when are eyewitnesses a requirement in proving cases of rape? 

The fact that the perpetrator’s confession was ruled inadmissible because it was “not in the correct format according to law” is laughable, the lobby said. What are we to understand from this, then? Were the officers who charged him incompetent in matters of procedure? Or, perhaps, was this a convenient “get out of jail” card, played to manipulate the system? Either way, the conclusion is that there is no safe space in Malta, not even a police station, where victims are expected to file reports and seek protection.

And while we’re at it, harassment, by definition, is always intimidating, and when the harasser is a police officer, an official who took an oath and made a personal commitment to serve, respect and protect human dignity, and maintain and uphold the human rights of all persons, then the crime is all the more serious.

This judgement further confirms the deep-rooted, internalised misogyny that pervades our society, where victim blaming is the norm, and rapists are let off with the bare minimum, if at all. No wonder 85% of sex offences go unreported, the lobby remarked. The overwhelming outcome of this judgement is that rape victims are not to be believed, reinforcing the fact that the system, ultimately, punishes the victim, whilst emboldening perpetrators to continue raping women, fearing no consequence.

Regrettably, this is not an isolated case, but a symptom of the manner in which our institutions continue to fail women, whose reports are not taken seriously, who are judged because of how they look and what they wear, who they know, their relationships and a multitude of other double standards that do not apply to the rest of the population. This mentality, that continues to infest our culture, is what leads to femicides, cases of domestic violence, harassment and discrimination. Everything is linked.

Ultimately, women have been, and continue to be, let down by the institutions, who seem to champion conveniently flawed technicalities over empathy, expert counsel and the protection of victims, the statement said.

It is clear that the police and the courts have failed. It is evident that there is no real effort to address the deficit that is more than apparent in the system. Both law enforcement officials and members of the judiciary are in urgent need of training in handling such cases, so that victims can be treated with the respect, empathy and dignity that they deserve. Furthermore, in order to avoid any miscarriage of justice it is imperative that the Minister of Justice ensures that there are no discrepancies between the Maltese and English version in the law on sexual harassment in Chapter 452 of the Laws of Malta - Employment and Industrial Relations Act.

Finally, the MWL demands an immediate and thorough review of the police force, the judicial system and other institutions. "We are sick to our back teeth with systemic failures, flawed procedures, evident misogyny, victim blaming, blatant discrimination, lack of resources, and no accountability whatsoever." 

The system is broken.

We’re fed up with the rhetoric.

It’s time for concrete action, the statement concluded.

 

SIGNATORIES:

 

  • Malta Women's Lobby
  • A4E (Association for Equality)
  • Graffiti
  • Malta Girl Guides
  • Mediating Women, Balancing the Media
  • Women’s Rights Foundation
  • Women for Women Foundation (Malta)

 

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