Some police are still guilty of scepticism, but retraining is on its way

At the recent DSAC conference on rape (DSAC Inter-disciplinary Conference: “Rape: 10 years’ progress?”, Wellington 27-30 March), it was continually emphasised how important it is for police and other professionals to believe a rape complainant. Indeed, the main criticism of the police was when they approached a case sceptically and focused on looking at gaps in the evidence rather than supporting the victim. It was acknowledged that some police personnel continued to treat complainants with scepticism and looked for evidence to corroborate an allegation, but senior police officials reassured the conference audience that police are to be trained to support complainants and not challenge their stories in any way.

This attitude was again reinforced on the Fraser “debate” on Rape (TV1. 15 April 1996), when visiting British Queen’s Counsel Helena Kennedy was critical of investigators treating a rape complainant with any degree of scepticism.

Despite what I believe is mounting evidence to the contrary, sexual abuse workers in many disciplines, including police, DSAC doctors, social workers, psychologists and therapists, are instructed that it is extremely unlikely for a sexual allegation to be false. It is now accepted police policy to treat every sexual allegation as genuine, and to minimise the distress of the complainant by avoiding critical examination of her testimony.

I contend that rape allegations should always be taken seriously. All complainants should be treated with sensitivity, compassion and respect. All those accused should be treated in the same manner. The police should be sceptical: they should neither believe nor disbelieve the complainant, but ask “What is the evidence?” and conduct an impartial investigation.

Men and women have equal capacity for both good and evil. Some men do rape, but some women also cry rape when it has not happened.

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