Well you've no doubt seen the conviction of John Worboys - the black cab driver who may have drugged and raped as many as 200 women in the back of his taxi in London. The story is totally sickening - after all the efforts by the police to tell women not to ride in illegal mini-cabs (the clue is in the name - they're "illegal" - which means it is the job of the police to stop them, no?) - it emerges that a stream of women hailing a "safe" black cab were drugged and raped.
The really chilling thing is that the profile of the women he targeted was - me. Out late alone in central London (which my job dictates I am five or six nights a week), around my age and sometimes drunk. Not only do I shudder and think how easily it could have been me, a small part of my brain can't help the paranoia that maybe it's actually possible that one of his victims was me. Part of my brain is running vague memories of nights when I woke up in the morning not entirely sure how I got home, wondering where I left my scarf or how on earth I managed to spend all the money in my wallet. And I keep seeing his picture in all the papers and thinking "Does he look familiar? Have you seen that face before?". As well as the hundreds of women who probably are his victims, thousands more, like me, have had that sickening thought - Would I have remembered if it was me? - over the course of the story unraveling in the media.
And women have a right not to walk around in fear of rape, not to feel paranoid that any night they have a couple more drinks than they can really handle they are suddenly at risk from people like black cab drivers - the very people they trust to help them get home safely. But the fear persists and it does so because the police - whose job it is to keep us safe from these criminals - are helping the rapists more than the victims. By refusing to believe victims, advising victims to drop cases, losing evidence, refusing to run tests, accepting rapists stories as true and dismissing drunk and drugged women as unreliable witnesses they in fact discourage women from coming forward to report the crimes perpetrated against them, thus making it even harder to get these criminals off the street. Indeed one of Worboys' early victims dropped her case because the police investigation was taking too long. But looking at the scale of the rape epidemic in the UK rape should surely be a priority for the police - who instead are focussed as far as I can tell on arresting anyone with a beard, some chappati flour and a GCSE chemistry book.
There is a great article by Lisa Longstaff from Women Against Rape covering this in more depth here.