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Guaranteed to divide

Harriet Oliver | 10:26 UK time, Thursday, 1 February 2007

We managed to upset our listeners yesterday during a series of interviews with rape victims. We were asking if too many men get away with rape.

Radio Five Live logoAccording to the experts, the attitude of jurors is a big obstacle in securing a conviction and for many, presenter Matthew Bannister was typical of male bias in his questioning. When one victim described being attacked after inviting a man she knew home for coffee, Matthew asked, "Isn't ‘come in for coffee’ generally code for something else?".

Should he have asked what many people - indeed lots of jurors - probably think? Not according to many listeners who bombarded us with texts and emails of which this was typical: "Coffee does not mean sex just as no does not mean yes. Issues of consent are best addressed by men understanding that women do not need to speak 'in code' and that if they are unsure of what a woman is thinking, the solution is to ask her. I thought your comment about being asked in for coffee was appalling."

There is no topic guaranteed to divide the audience quite so neatly down gender lines as rape. It was women who objected to the coffee remark while men generally thought it was a fair point. I think it's hard to get a consensus on this one. I suspect juries have the same trouble.


  • 1.
  • At 10:56 AM on 01 Feb 2007,
  • Sam wrote:

The coffee remark was a fair point, any woman who thinks otherwise should maybe rethink how her words are interpreted by men generally.

If a woman asks me in for a coffee i assume it means for sex. And to this date i have never been 'asked in for a coffee' and not been offered sex. That is a fact.

As for these figures generally. Who says any men are geting away with rape? That is a massive assumption. I could equally come to the assumption that 'too many women are accusing innocent men of rape' Couldn't i?

Get some perspective BBC your not meant to have an opinion.

  • 2.
  • At 11:13 AM on 01 Feb 2007,
  • Sarah wrote:

I think it's hard to get a consensus on this one.

Except that if all the women agree that it isn't code then it isn't. This is not a complicated idea to grasp, stop making it sound like one.

  • 3.
  • At 11:26 AM on 01 Feb 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

Given the divide on the question, that shows that it was absolutely right to include the question carefully in an interview with someone with direct experience.

Interviews should reflect what reality *IS* - that the issue is divisive and there is a strong split of opinion. Even if we'd all like there not to be.

  • 4.
  • At 12:44 PM on 01 Feb 2007,
  • Malcolm wrote:

I agree with Sarah if all women agree - but what do we do if 10% of women agree it is a code and continue to use it? (how about 90%, 1% or 1 in a 1000) Unfortunately language is generally defined by use, if you persuade enough people to say purple when they mean yes then it will come to mean yes and be understood as yes and other people saying "it does not mean that" will not help on its own.

However I don't see how it can be taken as meaning consent even in a circle where it might create an expectation that consent would follow.

  • 5.
  • At 12:50 PM on 01 Feb 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

In the US, assuming that while its NO NO on her lips, it's YES YES in her eyes could get you a long prison sentence...or worse....a life sentence...married!

  • 6.
  • At 02:09 PM on 01 Feb 2007,
  • Mark E wrote:

I think that the very question "We were asking if too many men get away with rape." is adding bias to the question. Perhaps a better question would be "Why does rape have such a low convinction rate?"

Thankfully at the moment Britain still is clinging to the belief that it is better that 100 guilty people go free then an innocent person goes to prison.

Those who are pushing for higher conviction rates seem to believe the opposite.

The coffee question is a fair question. Not because we, men in general, feel it is a prelude to bedside gymnastics, but because it is the only way to get the misapprehension, to put it politely, of the table.

The whole problem lies of course in the difficult, mixed, kind of communication, around sexuality. The whole 'coffee means sex' idea is absurd. Test yourself:
1) If my gay friend asks me in for coffe, do I think it means he wants to have sex with me?
2) If my asks me in for sex, do I expect coffee afterwards?

Answering one the above in the negative, ask yourself why you feel if your date asks you in for coffee, it really means something else?

More to the point of things. Basically, if we want to open up communication about intimacy and sexuality, we need to ask these question, preferably in a respectful way. That alone, makes the question fair and valid from a journalistic point of view.

  • 8.
  • At 02:29 PM on 01 Feb 2007,
  • Geoffrey Roberts wrote:

The 22 year old woman sent to prison this week for falsely accusing 4 men of rape (including her own dad) is an important consideration to why rape convictions are so low.

Does an invitation for coffee mean sex? The answer's 'No'. However, it does lead to an expectation and unless the rape was violent, then the woman must have consented by virtue of not resisting the act.

  • 9.
  • At 02:40 PM on 01 Feb 2007,
  • Lorna wrote:

Let's face it, even if there were more convictions, the perpetrators would walk free coz there's no room for them in the jails!!

The British judicial system is a joke!!

  • 10.
  • At 04:32 PM on 01 Feb 2007,
  • Philippa, UK wrote:

I thought Matthew handled the programme very well - he always does IMO.

If I asked a guy in for coffee, I'd be 80% sure of asking him to stay.

Personally, I thought the idea of a lower charge of a rape version of manslaughter rather than murder was a very sensible one in cases where there was some dispute about consent.

  • 11.
  • At 05:08 PM on 01 Feb 2007,
  • Eva wrote:

If "come in for a coffee" means come
to bed what doest come to bed mean?
Would you like a coffee?

Seriously, we are not talking about
sex we are talking about a violent crime. It takes brute force to hold a woman down and make her submit against her will. This isnt waking up the night after with a few regrets. This usually involves being badly assaulted.

If sex wasnt involved in this crime,
and it just was assault after the woman had asked the man in for coffee
but didnt try to rape her what would you recommend.

Even if the woman is in bed with a man, and says no just before the act we would assume that men are not animals and can accept a lady is always allowed change her mind.

However, women need to put their saftey first. One would not invite a complete stranger home during the day, it is complete insanity to do so at night. If women compromise their safety through alcohol abuse, then this issue needs to be addressed.

If you leave the door of your house open, and someone steals from your house, are you still allowed pursue charges? Yes. Then the same should apply to assaults against the person.

  • 12.
  • At 06:15 PM on 01 Feb 2007,
  • Bernard wrote:

Do too many men get away with rape?

Was your question.

This is my question:

Do too many women get away with making false accusations of rape?

I know men who have been accused of rape, and have been placed on remand. They have sat in a prison cell for many weeks only to be released when the woman has eventually told the truth.

As to the coffee invitation. Most men would take this as an invitation to have sex, and most women, I think, mean it to be interperated as sex.

Saying that, she may not mean that, if that is the case, she should say so. Also the man should ask if she would like sex after the coffee.

The vast majority of men are not rapists. I should imagine most are like me. If I have been told no, I take it as no, because I cannot see the point of forcing sex onto a woman. I like my sex without fighting for it.

Sex should be enjoyable, and it is when both agree to do it.

Back to; Do to many men get away with rape?

No, they do not. They have not been charged with the crime because there is no evidence to say rape occured. To get more convictions evidence would have to be fabricated against them. And that is not acceptable.

  • 13.
  • At 06:56 PM on 01 Feb 2007,
  • Harriet wrote:

Seriously, it's not really a cool comment from Mr Bannister is it? "Come in for coffee" may be widely understood as: "Come in and there's a likely chance we will have sex". I'm NOT sure that it means: "Come in and if I realise that I really don't want to have sex with you, why don't you force yourself on me."

  • 14.
  • At 07:13 PM on 01 Feb 2007,
  • Sam wrote:

I think it would be fairer to report this issue as previously posted:-

'why are the conviction rates for rape so low?'

And then yes we can perhaps adress it to the extent of how such matters are delt with and investigated by the police.

But if you are bringing the legislation itself in to question your on a very dangerous path. I guess an example of this would of been the talk a few weeks ago about making it a direct offence to sleep with a drunk woman! If some women can't control themselves whilst drunk then they shouldn't get drunk! Us blokes somtimes do it, get drunk and wake up with a girl that looks like shes been hit by a bus. But we underline it and move on we don't cry rape.

Such legislation would cause such problems. In fact we already have a situation now where if a woman if found to have lied when she cried rape she is rarely punished to the full extent of the law with the idea being if they were punished legitimate victims would be afriad to come forward.

So the law has already bent as far as it can, wrongly in my opinion. People who pervert the course of justice should be jailed.

The only issue to adress is like i said how such cases are delt with by the police.

  • 15.
  • At 07:18 PM on 01 Feb 2007,
  • Rick Jackman wrote:

"Come in for a coffee" might create the expectation of consent for some men, but human discourse is full of codes that are suggestive of something. Not excepting a 'no' beyond that invitation simply proves what we all know - that some men haven't moved beyond clubbing small animals for dinner and wearing rabbit pelts - as depressing and awful as that fact is.

  • 16.
  • At 07:27 PM on 01 Feb 2007,
  • Yvonne wrote:

Let's say "Come in for coffee" really was code for "Come in for sex." Does that mean that the guy then has the right to take that potentially offered sex regardless of what is then said and/or done?

Ok - yes, some women will say that and mean sex - but that doesn't mean that once you're in the door and she says "no" you can carry on.

Some women don't use code, some use it sometimes, some all the time. If a guy always assumes that she wants only what she asks for, then it doesn't potentially end up with a woman violated in one of the most appalling ways she can imagine. It's her own fault if she misses out on sex because she was using code and the guy took it at face value.

  • 17.
  • At 10:16 PM on 01 Feb 2007,
  • Bedd Gelert wrote:

I didn't hear Matthew Bannister, so I am not going to rush to judgement. But he did not make a statement that this was a 'coded remark' - me merely posed the question. And if one cannot even do that without being shot down in flames, then it is going to make this difficult topic even harder to discuss.

Of course an invitation to come inside with an offer of coffee cannot be taken as consent. But let us not delude our selves that either men or women always 'say what they mean, and mean what they say' when talking to the opposite sex.

If they did, the whole concept of flirting would disappear immediately.

  • 18.
  • At 12:05 PM on 02 Feb 2007,
  • Peter wrote:

A very emotive topic, the entire issue is loaded, I agree that more should be done to take predators of the street, however, the latest plan by Government is a joke, it is not legal and will be rejected by the Judicial system.

I have no idea how to ensure that victims of rape are giving a fair chance of gaining a conviction against their attacker, however, ensuring that the balance is not swung to far one way or another seems virtually impossible.

The latest proposal makes all men look like possible predators, this sort of legislation seems like a throwback to the Feminist movement of the 70's when any attack on men was deemed fair and any discussion on violent woman was not allowed.

As I said at the beginning the topic is loaded, it is not just about rape it is about how men and woman are treated fairly or unfairly by the Justice system and how the Politically correct brigade hijack these issues for their own agendas.

"...unless the rape was violent, then the woman must have consented by virtue of not resisting the act".

Geoffrey Roberts, that doesn't sound right. Do you mean that if a rape was not violent, the woman must have consented and therefore, technically, that would not be rape?

Say you are mugged by someone carrying a 12 inch knife and threatening to use it. You then hand over your wallet and the mugger takes it and leaves without harming you. Would you say that you consented to the crime by virtue of not resisting the act? Or that it wasn't a violent crime because you didn't get hurt?

Sometimes, a rapist only has to threaten violence to get the woman to give in.

  • 20.
  • At 01:59 PM on 02 Feb 2007,
  • Peter wrote:

What you need to remember is is that jurors are required by the judge to pass their verdict based on evidence that shows 'beyond reasonable doubt' that the accused committed the crime (rape).
Unless the prosecution can prove there is no reasonable doubt, the jury must find them innocent. Proving such a thing as rape which may often be impossible to differentiate from consensual sex 'beyond reasonable doubt' is very difficult.
That is why prosecutions are so low but to move away from this principle could be very damaging for justice.

  • 21.
  • At 02:12 PM on 02 Feb 2007,
  • Anna wrote:

As a journalist who has researched rape convictions rates for a report last year, it is widely accepted by the Crown Prosecution Service that not enough reported rapes are making it into court. This mostly includes what are known as "date rape" cases, where DNA exists (because sex took place), but the issue is whether there was consent or not. Because of this, and the fact there are rarely any witnesses to a "date rape", many reported rapes (as many as a third) are "no-crimed" by police almost immediately. Of those cases where a crime is deemed to have taken place, most do not make it to court because of the lack of evidence. Also, as the law currently stands (changes are being proposed at the moment) if a man "reasonably believes" there was consent, then he stands a good chance of being cleared - and so this defence is common. Many studies also show that false reporting of rape is about 2% - the same as other crimes such as burlgary.

  • 22.
  • At 02:15 PM on 02 Feb 2007,
  • Matt Provost wrote:

Geoffrey Roberts displays an example of the typical myths which surround rape - that of women lying about being attacked - studies have shown only around 3% of women claiming to have been raped are ever shown to have been lying. This is average for crimes in general yet the media and people seem to think it's a much higher percentage.

The question was only appropriate if it was within a wider debate on consent. Having read the qoute it does sound as though the questioner inferred that a woman hinting at the possibility of sex was effectively equal to consent which of course it wouldn't be. Consent must be totally clear and anything that leaves any doubt such as the coffee remark can never count.

  • 23.
  • At 02:43 PM on 02 Feb 2007,
  • karen wrote:

All this talk of coffee means sex, the Nescafe ads would have to go out after the watershed, so unless the woman actually says 'yes' then the man should always assume 'no', same goes for rapes on men. I was unfortunately sexually assaulted by a lowlife who didn't know what 'no' meant though. Theres only so much you can do.

  • 24.
  • At 04:18 PM on 02 Feb 2007,
  • H wrote:

"unless the rape was violent, then the woman must have consented by virtue of not resisting the act."

So lying back and taking it because your rapist has threatened that if it's not you, it will be your 12 year old sister does not constitute a rape. Exactly the reason I didn't even consider reporting it at the time. This attitude of "she lied about it, therefore you're probably also lying" is extremely disheartening. People accused of rape are innocent until proven guilty, so why are the women brave enough to come forward not offered the same courtesy?

  • 25.
  • At 06:20 PM on 02 Feb 2007,
  • Andrew Wilson wrote:

Coffee means sex?! Surely anyone can't be that arrogant and deluded by television and film that they believe this to be true. Respect should be given to woman at all times, even thou No can mean YES YES YES

  • 26.
  • At 11:45 AM on 03 Feb 2007,
  • Philip wrote:

Harriet, on a broader point, whilst I'm not suggesting you deliberately try to upset your listeners, it is a fair assumption that if you never upset them, then you aren't really doing your job.

  • 27.
  • At 06:23 PM on 03 Feb 2007,
  • Balance, what balance wrote:

"People accused of rape are innocent until proven guilty, so why are the women brave enough to come forward not offered the same courtesy?"

Yes, they are innocent until proven guilty. But their names are dragged through the mood, often their lives are destroyed by the very accusation.

It is only in the eyes of the law that they are innocent until proven guilty. Often the assumption is "no smoke without fire"

Women who report rapes remain unnamed even if it is later found that the case was totally fault. Any woman who is found to have falsely reported a rape should be charged, named and arrested - but that very rarely happens.

  • 28.
  • At 12:33 PM on 04 Feb 2007,
  • stalwartlover wrote:

I think that Peter makes the most useful points on this thread - it's about how our judicial system operates. I would like to see a comparison of rape cases which fail result in a conviction with other sorts of cases which also fail to result in a convicition. While I couldn't be 'happy' about low conviction rates in rape cases, some perspective is required. The clear-up rates for overall crime in the UK are fairly appalling.

  • 29.
  • At 07:38 PM on 05 Feb 2007,
  • Andrew wrote:

You cannot get round it: acquaintance rape is difficult to prove beyond reasonable doubt as the law - rightly - requires.

If the prosecution is allowed to call "experts" to say that women don't lie,you can be sure of this: the dfence (to whom the same right must be allowed) will find equally impressive-sounding and highly qualified experts to say Yes they do - and a lot of them will be women!

  • 30.
  • At 12:14 PM on 06 Feb 2007,
  • Chris wrote:

Of course "coming in for coffee" can be a coded remark and lead to expectations. But these expectations are just that, "expectations" not facts and I think we all know that. When buying a house, you may have a verbal agreement with a vendor but the house is not yours until the contract is signed. If the vendor later refuses to sign, you have no right to claim the property. We all have the right to change our minds, men and women, whatever the circumstances. The question really wasn't so much offensive, though I am sure the rape victim was hurt by the implication, as naive and irrelevant. We are led to have expectations about lots of things, however, this entitles us to nothing. And I think the vast majority of men know this and respect it.

  • 31.
  • At 07:20 PM on 07 Feb 2007,
  • Ineke Warner wrote:

So if I invite a guy in for coffee, and mean that, he has a right to assault me as some people might mean "have sex with me"? Slippery slope. What about wearing short skirts? Low cut tops? Does that mean someone was "asking" for it. What about this idea that if a man can get it up, he must be into it and therefor he could not be raped?

Unless there was a specific "Yes, I want to have sex with you", it should be considered assault. It won't be reported often though. The pain and humilation of the court case is often not worth the next steps. Like that guy 2 days ago. Raped a woman 3 times, beat her unconscious, can get out in less then 5 years.

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