Ulrika Jonsson on why her terrified teenage self still wouldn't report date rape to cops

WHEN I was growing up, the concept of rape involved a back alley, a stranger and horrific physical and sexual violence.

My generation were never led to believe that you could be raped by someone known to you. As women, we were born culpable.

Equally, there was a time, not so long ago, when rape would never have been considered a crime between a husband and wife. It was his right and her duty. But rape now, finally, constitutes a War Crime.

Another crime that never existed was “date rape”. Something I fell victim to at the age of 19, around 1986.

I was in a hotel room with someone known to me very briefly and, despite my protestations, I was forced to endure intercourse against my will. It was pretty terrifying.

When I wrote about this in my autobiography, some were critical that I hadn’t gone to the police. I hadn’t because the notion of date rape did not exist in those days.

Alone in a hotel room with a man is tantamount to an invitation to sex, right?

Hindsight, with modern eyes, is a wonderful thing.

The reason I refer to this is because I am deeply concerned that we have regressed in our handling of rape and sexual assaults.

‘ALL ABOUT TARGETS’

I mistakenly thought we had progressed. I thought we were all in agreement.

I didn’t realise that if alcohol was involved, the waters were muddied.

I thought we’d left behind the concept that if flirtations, texts, or a relationship had passed between two people, no crime could possibly have been committed. I thought we had listened.

I was under the impression that if the 19-year-old Ulrika came forward today, she would feel confident about her case being forwarded to the CPS, or at the very least, that she would be heard.

Yet the anger and frustration in Dame Vera Baird’s voice was palpable.

The QC and Victims’ Commissioner is enraged by the only conclusion that can be drawn from her first annual report: There has been a “decriminalisation of rape”.

With all things Covid in every corner of the news, it is easy to forget that real life carries on carrying on. But it is hard to ignore the facts surrounding rape.

There has been a “catastrophic” decline in prosecutions over the past three years, which means thousands of victims and complainants are being denied justice.

The numbers are shocking: In the year to the end of March 2017 the CPS prosecuted 3,671 cases.

In the year to the end of March 2019, only 1,758 prosecutions. A deeply unsettling drop of 52 per cent.

According to Dame Vera’s report, the CPS is chasing better statistics and higher success rates, thereby making it harder to achieve the standards of evidence required by them to get a case to court.

The approach appears to be to “take out the tricky cases”, by which I am guessing they are implying those where evidence may not be as easy to come by.

The CPS, of course, denies there has been a change in its policy but the numbers speak for themselves.

It goes against every fibre of my feminist being, but looking at these figures, I’m now doubtful I would go forward to the police in the circumstances of my “date rape”.

A message is coming through loud and clear.

It’s all about targets. It’s all about successes and meeting targets.

In other words, we’ve forgotten there are humans — women who have suffered trauma and will be forever scarred — behind those figures.

'TERRIFYING'

We’ve gone backwards. We’ve retreated to the days where we want clear-cut evidence that can absolutely guarantee a conviction.

But thankfully we have a Victims’ Commissioner with a loud voice, because we cannot pretend otherwise, historically, our interpretation of rape has changed and now it appears that, due to an appalling failure of policy, many rapes will not only go unpunished but also unchallenged.

Many victims will have no chance of seeing justice. Anecdotally, at least, it does sound as if the police are being empathetic, doing their bit.

But I fear for the woman who at the weekend accused the Tory ex-minister of rape and sexual assault — and all the other women out there.

I hope they have blood and urine samples, videos and signed affidavits from their perpetrators, especially if the crime is historic.

That way they can get their convictions and make the CPS look grand. Because it seems that stats are all that matter.

A big ask

WHO said romance is dead? There are rumours that Made In Chelsea star Sam Thompson and that camera-shy gal from Love Island are about to get engaged.

In fact, the rumours are only suggesting that he is about to propose to Zara McDermott.

Must be lovely for the bird to know in advance so she can prepare her speech and have an articulate response at the ready. Now all she’s got to do is sit tight and wait.

Reminds me of the time when a bloke asked me what I would say IF he asked me to marry him.

“So you’re basically asking whether you should ask?” I replied.

And that was the end of that.

Double fault

BORIS BECKER’S ex-wife, Lilly, fired a social media warning shot across the bows of his present girlfriend, Lilian de Carvalho Monteiro, for applying suncream to the back of her ten-year-old son, Amadeus.

“Step away from my son!”, she barked. I agree with her. There’s a principle here and it is a kind of unwritten rule.

If you are with a new partner who has children, you show respect to the absent parent by not being overly affectionate or posting on social media with the child, or getting too close.

Fortunately, I’ve not had to experience what Lilly is feeling as she sees paparazzi pics of her son on a beach with her ex’s new partner.

But I’ve always been acutely mindful to almost ringfence my children when I’ve introduced a “boyfriend”: Respect my children’s fathers, don’t try to drive a wedge between them and don’t think for a second you can buy their affection.

Becker, you need to get your s**t together and show some respect to your son’s mother, however badly your relationship may have ended.

Lions' fate the kindest

AS we are now in full Leo season – and as a lion myself (birthday next week, thank you ever so), I was touched by the story about Hubert and Kalisa – two inseparable African lions who had been living together in the Los Angeles Zoo for the past six years.

They have been jointly humanely euthanised in order that neither would have to live without the other.

At 21 years of age, these stunning big cats had already outlived their expected lifespan.

Their health was declining and their quality of life diminishing.

I’m a fierce opponent of animals in captivity – regardless of the arguments for conservation, etc.

It’s just something I find distressing and unnatural (so much so, I wasn’t even able to watch more than the opening credits of Tiger King).

It seems, for once, the keepers did something truly wonderful for Hubert and Kalisa and it brings to mind the terrible stories we hear about how old couples are torn from each other to be put in separate care homes, and how some simply die of broken hearts.

Keeping those lions together in life and in death was the kindest thing the zoo could do.


Met my hero

NEVER meet your heroes, they say.

Well, I did. In 1998, Channel 4 hosted a party for Ellen DeGeneres, of whom I was a massive fan and I got to fawn over her during a brief conversation.

Her sitcom was not only funny as hell but brave because it touched on her homosexuality – it was quite an achievement to get something like that commissioned in those days.

So, she knows what it feels like to be in a sidelined minority.

I was shocked, then, to find out that many staff on the production of her popular chat show say they’ve been working in a climate of fear – a toxic culture of racism and sexual harassment, bullying and yelling by various members of staff.

Whether Ellen was one of the perpetrators or simply “turned a blind eye”, it’s crushingly disappointing.

She always gave you the feeling there was nobody more empathetic on Earth. Whatever the truth, I struggle to see there can be so much smoke without some fire.

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