Germaine Greer on BBCQT

I watched BBCQT on iPlayer as some people on Twitter said they had heard she had said that false allegations of rape are common. You can watch the episode here

Greer definitely did not say that false allegations of rape are common. She did say that rape victims should not have anonymity because they should not be ashamed; implicitly, the culture that shames rape victims should be tackled. She called for the law on sexual assault to be overhauled. In my opinion, everything she said was consistent with a radical feminist position.

Many people may disagree with her on anonymity for victims and I agree that victims need all possible support, and that Greer’s position takes little account of the real and present difficulties faced by women and men from certain backgrounds and circumstances who have lesser degrees of support from those around them.

However, I think Greer’s views have been misrepresented. I feel her principles are good. She wants to change a bad system and a bad society, not merely ameliorate with a few superficial changes.

I have transcribed the relevant part of the program below, highlighting Greer’s remarks in burgundy:

Paul Burroughs (member of public): Should police withhold identities of people they have arrested until such time as they are formally charged?

Dimbleby: This is obviously… yes… in the light of a number of people in showbusiness we won’t go into their names who’ve been arrested, prominently arrested as you say but haven’t actually been charged. Should those names be kept secret until this is a charge. Jerry Hayes, you’re a barrister, what do you think about it?

Hayes: No I don’t think the[ir] names should be secret, because they have been arrested, it’s going to get out anyway… there was a case recently with an MP, won’t mention name, all the neighbours saw the police there. It’s going to come out but there is a serious problem I think and I’ve been prosecuting and defending rape and serious sexual offence cases for over 30 years. Fact is I am firmly of the view that if you are accused of a sexual offence particularly rape, particularly with children, you should be anonymous until after that trial, because the stigma is… it’s worse than murder, I have seen people who have been acquitted, perhaps when I’ve defended then, ha, little plug (laughs), but I…alright not many but…the stigma sticks with them for life because people say ‘ahh no smoke without fire’ and that is something we ought to deal with and I know there is a movement of people who say ‘well it stops women from coming forward’ It DOESN’T stop women coming forward we’ve come a long long long long way from all the old ideas about rape, women are treated very very well…

Dimbleby [interrupting] But what about what the Lancashire police said about the Stuart Hall case which… he then pleaded guilty, which was that it was by arresting him, and then naming him, that all the people came forward that he then accepted he’d

Hayes: Well there is that and there might be a case I think in those sort [sic] of circumstances for a judge to make an order but by and large I think there should be an automatic rule, anonymous, if the police say, this would help our investigation a judge should make the order, I think that’s the fairest thing

Dimbleby: Germaine Greer

Greer: I have an unusual attitude towards this because I… I… am NOT actually in favour of the accuser remaining anonymous. I think if you want to put somebody away for seven years for offending you, by taking sexual liberties with you, then you ought to stand up there and face him, because, YOU shouldn’t be shamed. HE is the person who should be ashamed. The idea that the fact that this has happened has somehow damaged you and made you a person who can’t show her face in public to me that… that really doesn’t work for me. But then on the other hand I also think that the legal category of rape is mediaeval, and it should all be under the blanket of sexual assault, because sexual assaults, say, on BOYS, which are now called rape, but are still regarded as forcible buggery, er, they are just as damaging and sometimes much more damaging and I think we should be thinking in a much less mediaeval way. The point about rape is it’s actually stealing a woman from somebody else that’s the etymological meaning of the term. Well that won’t do. If you’ve outraged me sexually it’s not because you’ve upset my father or my husband or my brother, you’ve upset ME, and that’s one reason why civil action against rapists is sometimes more satisfactorily especially given the strange attitudes of the Crown Prosecution service, towards rape cases especially involving prostitutes, who are just as likely to be raped as anybody else. So I just think the whole thing needs overhauling but I think we’ve all got to have the courage, if you’re going to stand up there and accuse somebody of a serious offence that could send him to prison for up to seven years or whatever, then I think you should show your face, and you shouldn’t be ashamed.

Young female member of the public: I completely disagree that it’s easier for women to come forward and speak about rape at the moment or well in the near future, whatever. I think that it’s actually really hard for someone to get prosecuted for rape so I think…

[Hayes said something inaudible ‘…it’s not the case…’]

Woman: Of course it’s the case! There were 95,000 rapes last year and less than 900 men were prosecuted for that. How is that showing that it’s easy for women to come forward?

Hayes: You can’t say that there were 900,000 rapes or whatever you said [she corrects him] because clearly they weren’t raped because they weren’t prosecuted, the evidence didn’t stack for them, and therefore they weren’t judged

[Woman in the audience exhales, covers her face, collapsing forward, pretty much like I am doing in front of my computer right now]

Hayes: No no no! there are allegations, and sometimes people do… I’ve done trials where people make things up

[someone on the panel, a man, saying no no we’re not going there]

Jo Swinson: Just because there isn’t enough evidence it doesn’t mean the rape didn’t happen [Hayes interrupts saying it means you can’t convict] The two things are very different, I can understand if there’s a situation where there’s not enough evidence to prove that in a court of law, but I think that it is doing the victim a huge disservice if you then assume that therefore that didn’t happen and that wasn’t rape

Hayes: So what do you take someone to court with no evidence

[Dimbleby reminds that the question was about anonymity for accused parties and an exchange ensues where he & Swinson discuss how far the Lib Dems endorsed this policy. Swinson then says the media need to be more balanced in reporting on rape accusations, and says ‘I agree with you Germaine that [accusers] shouldn’t be ashamed but [they shouldn’t be denied anonymity as it’s already difficult for them to come forward]’

Young female audience member: Just to say to Germaine, I mean obviously…I mean like the victim of any crime the victim of a rape shouldn’t feel ashamed but that doesn’t change the fact that I mean obviously they do. That’s the society we live in but you would feel ashamed if that was you and [they should be allowed to be anonymous]

Dimbleby to audience member: What’s your position on the accused? Should they be given anonymity?

Woman: I think, I mean obviously in a high-profile case where other people would recognise the name… but in a lot of that kind of… sexual crimes…it’s someone you know so it’s unlikely that if you know them that someone else who hears about the case through the media will know them

Dimbleby: Ok and…

Another woman in the audience: Agree with both points really I agree with the idea that you should be able to stand up and speak openly but I think society’s a very long way from people not feeling ashamed, and also there’s a big assumption today that all rape victims are female which is clearly not the case. And I think that brings all sorts of issues about gender identity and things like that which I think society does not acknowledge…

[Dimbleby reminds again what Q was about, asks David Davis to comment]

Davis:  Let me answer what Germaine said and move on from there […[ The victim has suffered once and suffers again when the case is brought to trial, let’s be clear on that, it’s a miserable process for the victim, and so for that reason and because we’ve had low conviction rates for whatever reason and whatever Jerry said I think we still must preserve the confidentiality of the victim’s position […] Now generally speaking in trials I want to see that both sides have the same rules applied to them. Fairness applied to both sides so my instinctive [… defendant should be anonymous] but I hate the idea of having secret trials. You know, our justice system depends on being in the public domain, but there is a balance here, and I am frankly disgusted by the fact that we have so many cases where the police turn up at exactly the same time as the press photographers


[Davis continues to say how disgraceful this is]

Davis: The compromise is I think that we should protect people until they are charged […] [institutions are under pressure] because of the failure of the Saville case there is a lot of pressure on the police to go the other way and I think there are a lot of people whose lives are being destroyed I don’t know whether it’s right or wrong… whose lives and being destroyed because their names are being put in the public domain before they’ve even got to charge. And I think that should be protected absolutely.


Audience member points out that rape is often a serial offence and naming allows other people to come forward with evidence, and ‘without naming them, that wouldn’t happen’

Tristam Hunt agrees with her and says ‘surely the balance has to be on the side of the victim’. Agrees with Davis. Says most disturbing thing to emerge recently about police was S. London police not bothering to prosecute rape cases and ‘shoving them onto the side, and the fact that that culture is still going on in a major city in the 21st century is terrifying’

[Hayes moans about legal stuff]

Greer: I’d just like to make a basic point about rape as a crime in law. Most rapes are not reported at all. Very few rapes that are reported result in a prosecution. Very few prosecutions result in a conviction. Now why? Because the burden of proof is too heavy. You can’t provide the proof that is necessary, because most rapes don’t happen in front of witnesses, and this is one reason why you have to rethink the whole thing. The police work very hard on rape cases. They spend hours and hours and hours working up the case, and when they discover that all that effort it’s extremely expensive and it’s produced nothing, they haven’t got enough evidence to go through court with, or they’ve gone to court and haven’t got their prosecution, when they’re making their own cost-benefit analysis they decide, not to work the cases up. This is all a consequence of this mediaeval hangover from this ridiculous body of law that makes rape, which is a diurnal crime which is very common, happens every day in every street, by turning it into something extravagant, and the fact that celebrities are now involved with this has made it even more extravagant, it distorts the perception of what it is. Women can’t get redress for sexual outrage at the moment, it is just too hard.



One thought on “Germaine Greer on BBCQT

  1. Brilliant. Thank you so much for taking so much time over this. I didn’t watch last night as I’ve given up on BBCQT & the continual discussions, news stories and articles on rape & sexual assaults are immensely draining & triggering.
    I saw abit on twitter last night and felt very sad that Germaine had seemed to join the ranks of rape apology. Thank god twitter was wrong.
    A great article, thank you again.

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