I must admit that I am not really sure if this counts as a ‘legal curiosity’ but in the UK a woman cannot rape a man, or another woman, as a matter of law. That is because of the terms in which the Sexual Offences Act 2003 defines the act of rape. Essentially, women don’t have the necessary ‘bits’ to commit the offence! Put more pompously, the 2003 Act makes penile penetration the main element of the offence. Legal academics describe this approach as being ‘phallo-centric’, because only biological men can commit the offence, in law, whether their victims be male or female.
Women can, of course, sexually assault men and other women. And their victims might define their experiences, morally, in terms of having been ‘raped’. For example, this is the situation for men who, against their will, have been forced or compelled to have penetrative sexual intercourse with a woman. Such men have not been ‘raped’ by their female assailants; they have ‘only’ been sexually assaulted.
Does it matter that their female assailants cannot legally be prosecuted for rape? The short answer is ‘probably’, because the maximum sentence for rape is life, whereas the maximum sentence for sexual assault is 10 years. There is, in fact, a specific offence of ‘sexual assault by penetration’, which can be committed by both men and women. That offence also carries a life sentence, but it is separate and distinct to the offence of rape. As already pointed out, according to the law, only a biological man can commit the offence of rape.
All of this leads me to the curious case of the woman, a lesbian, who in 2015 was convicted of three counts of sexual assault by penetration. Described as ‘an imaginative and accomplished liar’ she had somehow persuaded her victim to always wear a blindfold for dates (which included visits to the cinema!), as well as for any sexual activity. One of the sensational highlights of the trial, was Defence Counsel dramatically parading a large pink strap-on prosthetic before the jury, apparently in an attempt to argue that the hapless victim must have realised that her amorous liaisons were not with a real man. The jury was not impressed. Neither was the judge who sent her away for a stay in one of Her Majesty’s prisons for eight years. The victim of our ‘accomplished liar’ told her in a ‘victim impact’ statement that ‘you raped my life, my heart and my soul’. Indeed.
The other odd case, for present purposes, is the female college professor of ethics, in a top American university, who was convicted of sexually assaulting a 30-year-old learning-disabled man who ‘had the mental capacity of a toddler’ and was non-verbal. Married, with two children, the professor had ‘fallen in love’ with her victim whilst ‘treating’ him with a controversial communication method, called ‘facilitated communication’. To form a mental picture of the method, think Ouija boards spelling out messages. A prosecution expert described the method as an example of ‘pseudo-science and anti-science’. In 2015 the professor received a 12-year prison sentence, although she has been recently released.
There are some popular myths around female sexual assaults on male victims, the worst being that somehow they are ‘less serious’ and ‘more welcome’ by the victim. The stereotype is the testosterone filled male who is ‘always up for it’.
The new Domestic Abuse Bill, which is wending its way through Parliament, includes sexual abuse in the definition of domestic violence. This makes it clear that sexual abuse may be committed by women as well as by men.
For more information about Bastian Lloyd Morris, visit www.blmsolicitors.co.uk or call 01908 546580.