British police have identified a chilling new trend, in which rapists use social media to construct “false narratives” to cover their tracks after they have committed the assault. In one favored tactic, assailants have sent their victims social media messages or texts thanking them for their evening together in order to make it appear that the rape was in fact consensual intercourse.
This unspeakably creepy new twist on a vicious crime was detailed by Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders at the National Crown Prosecution Service and Police Conference on Rape Investigations and Prosecutions in London on Wednesday. Saunders warned the audience of prosecutors and police officers that rapists are using social media to “set up the scene” in a number of ways, including casting doubt on situations where drugs and alcohol are involved.
In new guidelines issued to police and prosecutors, the Crown Prosecution Service noted that “offenders may take steps which, on the face might seem normal or reasonable, to distance themselves from an offence or to reframe the offence … in order to undermine or pre-empt any allegation.” Tactics can include contacting the victim and “being over-friendly or seeking reassurance,” and “reinterpreting events leading up to the offence as spontaneous rather then planned.”
Saunders and her fellow speakers emphasized that incidents of rape remain under-reported, in large part because victims fear they won’t be believed; sickeningly, assailants are using the kind of social media subterfuge detailed to exploit that dynamic and further deter them from reporting the crime, using their own social media presence against them.
Indeed, although the UK guidelines don’t mention this, the tactic seems especially insidious to me because statistics show that most rape victims are attacked by someone they know; thus they’re more likely to be connected with their assailant via social media in the first place, giving the attacker more material to construct a plausible counter-narrative.