Ken Clarke and date rape

Whether or not Ken Clarke said something ridiculous and out of touch depends partly on the inclusion of a comma. In responding to a question about why rape sentences were, on average, only five years long, said this: “That includes date rape, 17-year-olds having intercourse with 15-year-olds.” (See the Guardian, as well as other websites.)

Is he suggesting that date rape and under-age sex are not as serious as “forcible rape”? Many online comments appear to be blurring the boundaries, assuming that Ken Clarke thinks date rape and under-age sex to be the same thing. Although his speech pattern may be short on full stops, I’m certain that he includes a comma between the two, clearly indicating that these are two separate reasons.

There is quite rightly a distinction between statutory rape and other kinds of rape. Although a 15-year-old cannot legally give consent, intercourse between two teenagers can be in all other senses consensual. Under-age sex can be serious rape, but it is not always so.

So what about date rape? He said this: “Date rape can be as serious as the worst rapes, but date rapes, in my very old experience of being in trials, vary extraordinarily one from another and in the end the judge has to decide on the circumstances.”

This second quote epitomises the difficulty of rape cases. The individuals involved often know one another, and the judge and the jury must piece together what happened. However, the use of the term “date rape” is a complete mistake by Ken Clarke, as it carries the implication that this is a less serious crime.

I hope that Ken Clarke intended to say that rape statistics are made more complex by the inclusion of complex cases. This is absolutely true. However, what he actually said sounded a lot like the suggestion that date rape isn’t serious.

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About feminismfortories

Moderate Tory, Liberal Feminist. Based in the UK.
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One Response to Ken Clarke and date rape

  1. James Garry says:

    The most ridiculous thing Ken Clarke said is that he is considering halving sentences of rapists who plead guilty.

    As it’s so difficult to find and convict rapists, wouldn’t this just give rapists extra confidence in their crime? That is, rapists know conviction rates are low and coupled with the promise of a soft sentence for confessing, their is little disincentive for them.

    For a full length discussion see my blog posting on Ken Clarke and the rape debate.

    To address your point in the first paragraph, I think, to be fair to Clarke, he intended a comma between date rape and statutory rape.

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