Anatomy of a Scandal Exposes Our Treatment of Rape Survivors

With only one in a hundred rapes reported to police resulting in a charge, and two-thirds of rape investigations dropped before they even reach court, it’s clear the UK justice system is failing survivors of assaults. sexual.

And Anatomy of a Scandal, a new six-part drama from Netflix, exposes some of the myths and abuse behind this shockingly low conviction rate. The new thriller, adapted from the best-selling novel by Sarah Vaughan, examines the fallout after a political aide (Olivia Lytton) accuses a high-profile Conservative politician (James Whitehouse) of raping her in a House of Commons elevator. municipalities.

During the resulting trial, the married MP insists the incident was consensual; a “moment of passion” during their five-month affair. Olivia acknowledges the affair but argues that the rape happened outside of their consensual sexual relationship – an aspect of the story that highlights the real difficulties of prosecuting a rape in a so-called “intimate personal relationship”.

Marital rape only became a crime in Britain in 1991, and rape within a relationship can be even harder to prove than other cases of sexual assault. This is partly linked to deeply rooted myths that color attitudes towards rape and consent. A 2018 YouGov study, for example, found that almost a quarter (24%) of Britons believe that sex without consent in long-term relationships is generally not rape; and another third of people believe that it is usually not rape if a woman is pressured into having sex, but there is no physical violence.

These depressing statistics lead to another damaging myth that is explored in Anatomy of a Scandal: that women make up rape allegations because they want revenge. On the TV show, James’ defense team argues that Olivia fabricated the sexual assault charge against him because she was bitter that he was ending their affair.

Naomi Scott as Olivia Lytton in the Netflix drama Anatomy of a Scandal
Naomi Scott as Olivia Lytton in the Netflix drama Anatomy of a Scandal

But above all, Anatomy of a Scandal – with Sienna Miller, Rupert Friend and Michelle Dockery – highlights the relentless pressure that rape victims are under, when (and even if) their cases come to trial.

The producers deliberately staged the drama so that Olivia’s character was only ever seen on trial (rather than at home or in her daily life), to echo the jury’s point of view. The decision underscores how the scrutiny of rape victims in the spotlight can be suffocating and traumatic.

Naomi Scott, the actress who plays Olivia in the series, admits that filming the role has “opened her mind” to the legal ordeal suffered by victims of rape on the stand. “The set itself is really quite intimidating and I was like, ‘OK, I’m an actor. This isn’t real,'” Scott told the Radio schedules. “I can’t imagine how it must feel for someone who actually has to tell their trauma to a group of people who aren’t necessarily supporting them, but actually judging whether they’re lying or not.

“It really opened my mind and my eyes and I just thought, ‘Wow, how brave to come forward,'” she adds. “But also, I completely understand why anyone wouldn’t want to go through this.”

Michelle Dockery in Netflix drama Anatomy of a Scandal
Anatomy of a Scandal, with Michelle Dockery, explores harmful myths around rape

Five out of six women in the UK who are currently raped do not report it; and even those who do face a barrage of obstacles to seeing their perpetrators successfully convicted. For example, a two-year wait for trial has led watchdogs to recommend the creation of specialist “rape courts” in the UK, to improve the justice system.

But even rape victims who make it to trial face “brutal” cross-examinations that “re-traumatize victims and cause them irreparable harm”, campaign groups say. A culture of misogynistic beliefs around sexual history, drinking habits or even how claimants dress has fueled the fire of a flawed and humiliating justice process.

These changes are (long overdue) steps in the right direction. But as the UK’s appalling conviction rates show, and as Anatomy of a Scandal brought to life so blatantly, our justice system still has a long way to go to redress the endemic wrongs that rape victims so regularly face.

Sexual Assault Referral Centers provide a safe space and dedicated care for people who have been raped, sexually assaulted, or abused. If you have been raped, assaulted or sexually abused and don’t know where to turn, search for ‘sex assault referral centres’ to find out more or visit to find the nearest service.

Picture: Netflix

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