Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Trawling through the Phones of Rape Victims Is Asking Them to Choose between Privacy and Justice

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Trawling through the Phones of Rape Victims Is Asking Them to Choose between Privacy and Justice

Article excerpt

Byline: Lucy Hunter Johnston

LET'S kick off proceedings with an ice-breaking group exercise: take out your phone, scroll to recent browsing history and pass the device to your nearest neighbour. Horrifying, right? There are things I have looked up in late-night, anxiety-fuelled sessions that I wouldn't dream of revealing to my best friend, let alone willingly divulge to a complete stranger.

My phone is not just an extension of myself: it's a repository of the most intimate, private parts of me. And the picture it paints isn't necessarily one I'm proud of, or even a version I particularly recognise. I'd like to think that the best bits of me exist in real life; in contrast, my digital footprint is blurred and piecemeal. Seduced by the seeming secrecy suggested by fingerprint unlocking, my phone-self is exaggerated,

distorted by the extremes of changing mood and moments of weakness, boredom, or simple morbid curiosity.

It's all so easy. I've fired off emails when blinded by white-hot anger, taken pictures that now make me blush on a cellular level, and fallen deep into the paranoid depths of bizarre medical diagnostic holes, convinced I am moments from death. In none of this do I believe I am alone I just don't want you to see any of it.

So it's understandable that the new "evidence extraction document" which asks victims of serious sexual assault to give police full access to their phones, or risk cases against their attackers being dropped, is controversial.

It's terrifyingly invasive: having been through a traumatic experience, a woman is then asked to bare herself for a total digital strip-search in the full knowledge that entirely unrelated misdemeanours or previous consenting relationships could well be used to discredit her personally when she is already at her most vulnerable. It appears that, yet again, when it comes to rape, it's the woman's character and history that is scrutinised, to deem whether she is a worthy or not sufferer, except now there's nothing off-limits. …

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