CAMPAIGNERS are concerned that remarks made by Scotland’s leading sex crimes prosecutor, who warned that young people who drink too much leave themselves vulnerable to rapists, could lead to victims blaming themselves for being attacked.
Alison Di Rollo said excessive alcohol was a “hallmark” of too many cases and also made it difficult for prosecutors when the victim’s memory is hazy.
While she stressed she did not want to detract from the responsibility of offenders, campaigners are wary of too much focus and blame being placed on the behaviour of the victim.
Heather Coady, of Scottish Women’s Aid, said: “We have to be really careful about the kind of messages that we might inadvertently reinforce about victim blaming. We must make sure the focus is on the offender, rather than the victim, and not reinforce what is already out there – that it is somehow the woman’s own fault.
“She [Ms Di Rollo] is probably coming from a sensible place. But the real concern is that people who have been raped might blame themselves because of these sorts of comments.”
Ms Di Rollo became head of the Crown Office’s sex crimes unit in January, and is held in high regard by campaigners, who were careful not to escalate the disagreement into a full- blown row.
She worked on the successful prosecution of Marek Harcar in 2009, for the rape and murder of businesswoman Moira Jones in a Glasgow park, in which she assisted the then Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini QC.
Sandy Brindley, of Rape Crisis Scotland, said: “While there is a role for personal safety messages, it is important not only to focus on what women or potential victims of rape can do to avoid rape but to also target perpetrators.
“What we know is that many rapists are targeting very drunk women; we need to get a clear message out, particularly to young men, that where someone is too drunk to be capable of consenting, any intercourse is rape and could have very serious consequences.
“As Alison Di Rollo has pointed out, the only person culpable for rape is the perpetrator.”
While crime has fallen to a 37-year low, recorded incidents of rape and attempted rape have risen, in part because of new legislation broadening the definition of the crime.
In 2011-12, there were 1,274 cases of rape and attempted rape recorded by police, up 13 per cent from 1,131 the previous year. Of those 1,274 cases, 24 were offences against men.
Ms Di Rollo believes “Scotland’s love affair with alcohol” plays a part.
“I’m very concerned about young people drinking far too much at far too young an age and putting themselves at risk – boys and girls,” she said.
“It is a hallmark of far too many of the cases that we deal with.
“It leaves them extremely vulnerable to all sorts of exploitation and, from a prosecution perspective, makes our job very much harder when the recollection of the victim is so affected by excessive consumption of alcohol.”
However, she stressed: “I don’t detract from the responsibility or culpability of any accused man who takes advantage of that.”