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Cyprus: trial by porn culture

As more emerges about the young woman on trial in Cyprus after reporting a gang rape, women’s charity FiLiA looks at the human rights crisis behind the headlines

CYPRUS, like Britain a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights, has an obligation properly to investigate reports of rape.  

So when a young British woman staying at a resort in Ayia Napa reported that while she was having (consensual) sex with her boyfriend, 11 of his friends came to join in, it would reasonably be expected that the authorities would do their best to investigate. 

Such a complex case — 12 suspects, forensic evidence, a traumatised witness — would take some time, you might think. But no, the investigation was apparently concluded in just 12 days, after which the police turned on the complainant.

She was reportedly then interrogated by the police for eight hours. Eight hours, without access to a lawyer, or even a phone call to her mum, at the end of which she withdrew the allegation, using phrases which sound unlikely from someone with English as a first language. 

She says that the circumstances amounted to duress and that it was this pressure which compelled her to retract the allegation.

Instead of being the end of her ordeal, it was only the beginning. She was then charged with public mischief (“making a false statement about an imaginary offence”).  

The investigation into her supposed misconduct was nowhere near as swift as the exoneration of the men, and she was held in prison for a month, with the whole process taking five months to complete. 

At trial, the judge refused to hear any evidence about the rape, saying it was not relevant — but how could he decide if the offence was imaginary without hearing evidence about the offence? 

The doctor who had examined the woman confirmed that she had injuries consistent with her account, but his evidence was summarily dismissed by the judge, who also limited cross-examination by her lawyers of prosecution witnesses, and shouted at her to show him respect.  

She and her lawyers were not able to cross-examine the men, because they, unlike her, had been permitted to leave Cyprus.

Footage of the woman having consensual sex was found on the phones of some of the men. The judge concluded that she must have made a false report after being embarrassed at realising she was being filmed — despite her not having known that she was filmed until the police showed her the footage. 

In any event the judge does not explain why her consent to sex with one man might translate into consent to sex with 11 others. This must raise serious doubts about judicial bias. 

Article 6 of the ECHR guarantees the right to a fair trial. The descriptions of this trial fall far short of this fundamental human right.
 
How did we get to the stage where a woman could go distraught to a doctor, with injuries, cause the doctor to be sufficiently concerned to call the police, and yet find herself the accused? 

Porn culture has a lot to answer for. In porn, women “love” being violently assaulted and gang raped. They pop up on some clips at the end, still with mascara tear streaks, to announce that they really enjoyed the “scene” they just played. 

And so young men persuade themselves that women really do like this, and some young women persuade themselves that they should like it too. 

It speaks volumes that within days of the media reports of phone camera footage of the sex/rape, the video became a top search hit on porn sites. 

It suggests mass desensitising to abuse of women. What man hears that a woman has been raped and goes straight off to find the footage to masturbate over? Well, apparently lots of them. 

It’s time that we took a step back and had a good look at how porn culture frames women as perpetually, smilingly, enduringly welcoming abuse, and how that affects women’s private lives and sexual relationships. 

Porn is the social lubricant for the non-staged, non-acted, inhuman and degrading treatment of women. 

Some have suggested that because the accused men were Israeli, it is anti-semitic to report on this — just as in the wake of the New Year’s Eve attacks in Cologne, it was suggested it was racist to report that two thirds of the men involved were north African; just as after the Rotherham scandal broke it was suggested that it was Islamophobic to note that the men involved were Muslim.  

It is not Israeli men — or north African men, or Muslim men — who commit these offences in isolation. It is men who are steeped in porn culture and misogyny from their early teens, men whose viewing habits teach them that their masculinity comes at the expense of a bruised and weeping woman. It is a cycle which can and must be broken.

FiLiA calls on the Westminster government to:

  • Provide assistance to the young woman in leaving Cyprus
  • Ensure that she has legal aid to bring whatever legal action she needs to take 
  • Ensure that she has access to high-quality trauma-informed medical support on return 
  • Support her in an action against Cyprus for breach of Article 6 right to a fair trial 
  • Use this as a springboard to take action on public health grounds against porn culture. 

To find out more about FiLiA and its annual conference, to be held this year in Portsmouth, visit filia.org.uk.

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