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A Judgment on Rape (A Case of Rape or not for Ross Poldark)

⚠ Content and moving images reference sexual violence.

On 9th May 1793 in the fourth book 'Warleggan' (Internal Book 3 Chapter 5), an incident between Ross Poldark and Elizabeth would end up being a significant life changing event in their lives and also in the lives of their respective spouses; Demelza, and Spouse-to-be George Warleggan. As covered in the previous essay 'Ross Poldark's Fall From Grace (A Thin Line Between Lust And Hate For Elizabeth), during the throws of an argument about Elizabeth's decision to marry George, Ross ignored Elizabeth's protests at his anger driven sexual advances and carried her to the bed. Graham did not write what happened thereafter. This means that though the reader is made aware that sexual intercourse did take place, with Winston's perceived silence on whether this was consensual or otherwise a rape, this has since been a controversial topic and much questioned incident in the saga. 

Setting aside the natural desire not to potentially think ill of the romantic hero, Ross Poldark, this post will serve as a judgment with a finding on that key question: 'Did Ross Poldark rape Elizabeth on the night of the ninth of May 1793?' To come to a finding which is non emotive and objective, the assessment for this will be split in four parts. Part 1 covers the  criteria and understanding of rape by Winston Graham and Ross. Part 2 and 3 cover respectively the evidence from Ross as the accused in this case, and from Elizabeth as the potential victim. This will be through their thoughts, statements and actions, as recorded in the relevant books of the saga. To conclude, part 4 will at the last set this against the evidence of which there is some from the two impartial witnesses being Winston Graham, the impartial narrator and Winston Graham, the author

(Part 1) Law - Establishing Rape Or Not 

Common Law Rape: The carnal knowledge of a woman forcibly and against her will.

No matter what authority a person looks at, whether it is a legal book, dictionary, internet search or the factsheet from an anti rape organisation, the definition for rape will specify two essential features for a rape to have occurred. The first in respect of rape by a man against a woman is penetration of the woman by the man. The second is that this was done without consent. The old common law defined rape as "The carnal knowledge of a woman forcibly and against her will." Beyond this definition the history of rape law in England was not really laid out clearly and explicitly until
The Sexual Offences Act 2003. However the book in which the May incident occurred was not published until 1953. Since the law was not so prescriptive then, to begin with it is therefore important in the first instance to be mindful of Winston Graham’s outlook on rape during the period that he wrote. 

Law & Morality -Winston Graham's Outlook

Indeed there does seem a need to also address any speculation that Winston Graham may not have been clear himself on rape and therefore whether he had unknowingly written what might essentially have been a rape scene, or not. There is also speculation that perhaps Graham grew in understanding of rape and changed his opinion over the years of writing his saga which from that fourth book ran a further 49 years until the last book 'Bella Poldark' was published in 2002. This is particularly relevant since many readers place significance on Winston Graham narrating to the reader that Reverend Ossie Whitworth first raped Morwenna in 'The Black Moon' (Internal Book 3 Chapter 12). In not doing the same in respect of Ross and Elizabeth's 'May incident', whilst some readers take this as Graham's opinion that the 'May incident' was not a rape, others may think that Graham's failure to confirm either way in respect of Ross's behaviour, suggests that he was not clear on that one, and that in that confusion of the 'May incident' he therefore also chose not to say either way.

Winston Graham did show his moral understanding on rape

In fact Winston Graham’s confirmation in respect of Reverend Ossie Whitworth as a rapist is evidence that he did indeed have a clear position on what rape was and that furthermore the law at the time he was writing for did not dictate his moral position on it.
This is because during the 17th/18th century the law was that a man could not rape his wife. It just would not be considered rape as he could take her as he pleased by right of marriage. Winston Graham knew this and wrote Reverend Ossie Whitworth claiming this defence when Morwenna as his wife was refusing to have sex with him. Graham wrote the Reverend say to her; "You cannot deny me, Morwenna...It is even against the explicit law of the land. No man in law can commit rape upon his own wife. The definition of marriage renders this impossible-" 'The Four Swans' (Internal Book 2 chapter 7)

Not resisting does not mean consent.
Despite the legal exemption for marriage, in Book 3 chapter 12 of 'The Black Moon' Winston Graham essentially made a point in the last sentence by informing the reader to never mind that, and that what the Reverend had just done to Morwenna was still rape. Indeed seemingly taking a 'rape is rape' attitude with this, Winston Graham showed that he was not beholden to that old fashioned law which he would therefore not allow his character to have the benefit of using to claim innocence. So he condemned The Reverend by his narration. This is even though it was a valid law for the Reverend to use in that age. 
Instead, supposedly on the basis of that carnal law or just a sense of his own morality, Graham demonstrated that his understanding of rape was aligned to that common law interpretation. That is simply that penetration by force without consent is rape. 

Write No Evil- Speak No Evil

Winston's understanding of the law and his own moral position is unsurprising since even as a writer of that time 70 years ago, he consistently showed a level of intelligence, insight and thoughtfulness as he covered complex moral issues in his writings. Through that readers could sense his own stellar judgment and emotional intelligence in his story telling. But in this case, perhaps where Graham had been detailed and explicit with the scenes of Reverend Ossie Whitworth raping his wife and sharing all this with the reader, so too could he be with labelling and defining this explicitly for what it was as rape. Whereas there was a reason and a conscious decision for Graham not to write and therefore provide details of the behaviour of the lead protagonist and romantic hero at the bed after he had carried Elizabeth there. That meant that to follow on from that, in a type of 'Write no evil, speak no evil' perspective, so too was he not explicit in labelling and defining a scene involving Ross Poldark which he had not written and shared for the reader anyway. 

Rape: Ross Knew What It Was Too

"It's the law." said Ross. "that a man may take a woman-with consent. If you take her without it it is a crime. Even to threaten to do so will get you into trouble. Well, Jinny does not want you. You ought to know that for she has made it clear." 
'Ross Poldark' (first edition -internal book 1 chapter 8 part 2)

There is also one other major indication which seems to double up as not only Winston Graham's understanding of rape but also of Ross Poldark's too. This was in the first edition of the first book where Ross was trying to dissuade Reuben Clemmow from harassing and stalking Jinny Martin. Rueben had asked Ross why he could not have a woman just as Ross could and added to Ross "Tes the law that a man can have a woman. Ye can say nothing to that." In reply to that Ross said it was the law that "....a man may take a woman-with consent. If you take her without it it is a crime." An extract of Ross's full comment is above and it can be seen that he also qualified that Jinny had expressly conveyed that she did not want Reuben. Ross knew that Jinny's position in not want this from Reuben was a key issue to make 'taking' Jinny a crime. Therefore, the premise and the criteria that Graham was operating on for 'rape to be rape' in this story was clear and Ross had that same understanding too, whom it was echoed through. It's that pretty basic principle of consent from the victim being essential, and for Graham on a moral level, that was irrespective of any law that might have been made to allow for rape in certain conditions, such as within a marriage.

(Part 2 ) Ross's Evidence- Ross Confirms Rape!

The Guilty Act/Actus Reus:
  The physical act of committing a crime.

Criminal intent/Mens Rea: The intention or knowledge of wrongdoing that constitutes part of a crime, as opposed to the action or conduct of the accused.

  1. "a mistaken belief in consent meant that the defendant lacked mens rea"

When assessing Ross as a reliable witness, the starting point should be imagining that he was innocent of rape. That is the legal position. Innocent until proven guilty! A finding of guilt would be by assessment of the information available and the likelihood that 'beyond all reasonable doubt' Ross did not initiate and force sex on Elizabeth without her consent. Since the burden of proof is so high due to the criminal standard of proof, it is reported in the UK that in respect of rape, only 1% of reported rape cases lead to a conviction. However that 1% statistic is based on the alleged perpetrator's absolute denial of non consensual sex. On the matter of whether Ross Poldark is guilty of rape, the problem for him is that irrespective of a moral understanding of rape and in light of his very own understanding, as a starting point Ross essentially admits the two elements that are required to meet the test for a crime being committed and specifically in his case, the crime of rape. 

The two elements to be criminally guilty of rape are the guilty mind for the crime (Mens Rea) and the guilty act (Actus Reus). Ross unequivocally makes 
this admission by first acknowledging in his thoughts that he 'took' Elizabeth. That is the Actus Reus /guilty act, and that secondly it was 'against her will'. That is the Mens Rea/the guilty mind. 'The Fours Swans' ( Internal book 1 Chapter 12 part 1). While it may seem too simplistic this single admission addresses head on at this early stage the question of whether Ross raped Elizabeth on 9th May 1793 and anything else (see below) is a distraction from this or otherwise just mitigation to lessen the level of punishment that a court of law should bestow or perhaps condemnation that the reader should have for him. Naturally, Ross's admission means that there is no concern that the 'beyond all reasonable doubt' proof is met. Ross’s evidence / admission removes the doubt!

"I took her against her will-"

Indeed, the essence of Ross's case which works against him is as he said it. This is that he initially took Elizabeth knowing that this was against her will. Whilst there are avenues to introduce other distracting and derailing ideas, as discussed below, that is the key point. This is that, at the time of the 'taking', Ross as he himself described it so, knew it was against Elizabeth's will and she had not given or expressed her consent to this. 

Angry ross Poldark throws Elizabeth on the bed where they kiss in the adaptation twist on the rape scene of season 2 episode 8
Adaption fiction from the last adaptation since this does not depict 
Ross Poldark 'taking' Elizabeth 'against her will' as Winston
Graham had narrated that Ross admitted to in the seventh book.
So since Ross knew at the time of force (or 'the first shock' as he described it), that he did not have Elizabeth's consent, then even before looking at her evidence and her perspective Ross had already confirmed for the reader without using the word 'rape' that this is what he did. He admitted that he did this criminal act while having the criminal mind and intent for rape, in that moment. It is for this reason that the depiction of the 'May incident' in the last television adaptation of Poldark is essentially 'adaption fiction', since it goes against the book scene and narrative. It goes against even Ross's admission! This is contrary to the defence of the depiction put up by the production team and cast who contrary to Ross’s admission maintain that Elizabeth was not taken against her will and that what happened in the book was consensual sex. So instead, in 
that adaption Elizabeth is seen responding to Ross's sexual advances when pushed on to the bed. She  is seen kissing him back at that early stage. Even with this such early reciprocation has its issues given that it was obtained through aggression. However if this adaption depiction was really how it was in the books, then at least an arguable case could be put that Elizabeth did give non verbal consent 'before' she was 'taken' and that therefore she was not 'taken' 'against her will' as Ross in the book narrative said that she was. 

'Less Unwilling' -A Red Herring!!! 


"...though in the end I do not believe it was so much against her will."
The Fours Swans' ( Internal book 1 Chapter 12 part 1).

No Defences For Ross 

Having made the admission of rape, while there may be mitigation, there really is no defence for Ross to the criminal act. Even the four defences available now that the law has developed in UK law would not apply. 
'Duress' - Ross was not under pressure or force by a person to cause him to fear for his safety or his life if he did not do this to Elizabeth. 'Insanity'- Ross had no recognisable mental illness for him to be found to be insane. 'Automatism'- Ross was not unaware of his actions such as if under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and 'Mistake'- Ross was not mistaken as to any circumstance of fact that would impact the guilty mind and relate to 'intention' and whether this therefore was not a criminal act after all. For instance, an example would be not knowing that the victim was underage or did not have the mental capacity to consent to sex. Hence, Valentine Warleggan was guilty of rape of Agneta Treneglos in the later books because he was not mistaken that she did not have mental capacity. He was aware of that and still went ahead. 

Despite these defences being closed off for Ross, he muddies the waters for some readers on the question of rape by following his admission of taking Elizabeth against her will by thinking that "...though in the end I do not believe it was so much against her will." This is along side thoughts suggesting that after initial resistance, and ‘after’ the shock from him, Elizabeth may not have been so angry with him for what he was doing to her. This will all be explored further in the upcoming post 'Resisting Ross's finding of rape' which will focus on the efforts made to get around or lessen the impact of such a finding of rape against the romantic hero. However, to get to the point here, this belief of Ross's still does not assist his case. As cited above where "a mistaken belief in consent meant that the defendant lacked Mens Rea" this does not apply to Ross because he never maintained that he mistakenly thought she was willing when he took her. He knew it was against her will at the time. That would in any event be very difficult for him to try to claim since just beforehand, in the scene, Elizabeth had said to Ross "Don't! I'll scream!" and "Ross, you can't intend... Stop! stop!, I tell you."  There can be no doubt that before the shock Ross knew he did not have Elizabeth's consent.

Ross only suggests the possibility of Elizabeth being willing 'in the end'. Firstly, in any event, that is therefore still not at the start before the 'taking' by force and when the act of rape was already committed. Secondly, Ross expresses these ideas as suppositions which are still not even unequivocal since he thinks his act on her was not 'so much' against Elizabeth's will. Again the tone Ross sets with his reflections is that the starting really was that Elizabeth was unwilling but that in his personal opinion this shifted but still did not shift so that he was satisfied that she was completely willing. That is what would be required before being ‘taken’, in order that this would not be a rape scenario. He would need her full, free and expressed consent! 

There is also a conversation to be had about the difference between a victim desiring something but nevertheless for various reasons them still not consenting to having this forced on them. That and the 'she wanted it deep down' argument will be considered in the upcoming post, but given the danger of perpetrators taking advantage of forcing themselves on a victim and then arguing that for some reason they believed that the victim did consent 'in the end'  or that they feel the victim 'really wanted it deep down', The Sexual offences act 2003 addresses this too. Under the mantra and expectation of 'a reasonable belief in consent' (rather than favourable guessing), it states that 'the defendant has the responsibility to ensure that the victim consents to the sexual activity at the time in question'. It would make sense that since Ross 'at the start', and at the time in question (being when she was taken), knew Elizabeth did not consent, then this additional comment of him thinking that she did later on is by the by but on the question of her changing her mind 'in the end' he'd have to give something concrete to show why he thought there was a turnaround. But since if this was the case, this was after the 'taking' anyway meaning that this supposition really is a red herring to the question and finding of rape against him. This is especially as even when confronted with her three years later, amidst some sarcastic remarks from Ross, he offers no viable basis to his belief that she was 'less unwilling' before the taking. That would be Elizabeth's sexual reciprocation just as is depicted in the last adaptation as adaption fiction. Yet one would expect that an innocent man would do so immediately without hesitation and sarcasm.

Guilty Behaviour For a Guilty Man

"Even my offence is three years past."
    Ross Poldark to Elizabeth  The four Swans' (Internal Book 1 Chapter 11)

Generally Ross's personal thoughts and post rape behaviour has a clear air of a guilty man. After meeting Elizabeth at the graveyard in 'The Four swans' he reflected on his 'uneasy conscience' as he thought of his 'two misdeeds' and injuries against her being taking her against her will and then the crowning insult of not going to see her afterwards. That was something which he had not done initially because he considered that 'He had behaved abominably', that his behaviour was 'unexplainable' and 'the impossibility of explaining himself had stopped him.' 'Warleggan' (Internal Book 4 Chapter 6). The idea that the fault was all on him and it was him not Elizabeth who had behaved badly and that this concerned 
quite a serious matter, is consolidated by Ross as he referred to what happened that May night as ‘my (his) offence’. Also he conveyed to Elizabeth that in respect of a guilty conscience, that this was not for her to have but instead he said "...the guilt was all mine." Of course, if Elizabeth had indeed reciprocated that would not be quite true. So his comments imply she did not. 

However as is typical with perpetrators, no matter how honourable in the aftermath, Ross did try to imply that Elizabeth played some role in his crime and attempted this during his conversation with her at the Graveyard. However this and his own thoughts suggesting partial blame on her are unhelpful to bestow on a victim but also to his case as they are only based on his perception that she had provoked him by her behaviour in the years beforehand. Presumably, for instance, such as flirting with him as covered in the post 'Elizabeth: A Touch Of Red Dress Seduction'  or her 'vague and questionable confession' of love for him. In 'Warleggan' (Internal book 4 Chapter 6) he had thought that 'Her attitude towards him during a number of years, and particularly the last two, were more than anything responsible for what had happened, and she must have known it." Maintaining that thought he said to her at that Graveyard meeting in 'The Four Swans' "I only ask you when you're of a quieter mind to think over the events that led to my visit that night. Injury until then was not all on one side." This only reinforces Ross's acceptance that it was he alone that behaved badly in Elizabeth's bedroom on 9th May 93 and for that event the injury was on her side inflicted by him. His remark is an attempt at victim blaming by suggesting she laid the ground work to provoke such (violently disproportionate) behaviour to her, which he yet still admitted to her was "indefensible". The deflection highlights that facing a heinous unspoken accusation which would normally be met by the sternest of objections or defences by an innocent person, Ross did not feel confident to try to rely on a more direct argument of joint blame if Elizabeth had reciprocated on the night during what was consensual sex. He could not because he knew it not to have been consensual sex. Despite Ross's attempt here, together with his  claim of Elizabeth being less unwilling 
‘in the end’, Ross on the other hand and overall still seemed to take sole accountability as the wrongdoer for what went on in the bedroom as 'his' misdeed and 'his' offence. So it is hard to see how he can be considered as innocent when Ross himself did not. 

Ross's guilty behaviour and his admission makes this unnecessary, but examination of the evidence from Elizabeth and Winston Graham as the narrator and as the story's author only serves to corroborate his admission, and vice versa. However, for the sake of completeness it is still important to address them to ensure the belt and braces nature of a finding. 

(Part 3) Elizabeth - Rock Solid On No Consent 

Unless Elizabeth was delusional the evidence she provided from her thoughts in relation to her not giving consent is rock solid. Her first appearance after the 'May incident' was in Chapter 10 of the third internal book of 'Warleggan'. Her reflections while George quizzed her about her wish to postpone their wedding were convincing because of the conviction they carried. Elizabeth thought that Ross had offered her ' incursion on her privacy' which indicates something she did not wish to give, show or share with him. She thought his behaviour to her involved '..a violent taking of what was not rightly his.' Again this relates to something not freely given by her, and if it was freely given then of course it would not need accompanying violence by Ross to obtain it. Also, of course the reference to 'taking' in the 'violent taking' matches Ross's word which unsurprisingly as the perpetrator is put less harshly without the description word to indicate the aggravated manner in which he took her. Elizabeth also thought of not being able to go from one man's bed to another in the course of a few days '-however disgracefully she had been taken advantage of...'. So the tenor of all these thoughts lean firmly to something being taken from Elizabeth without consent and in a violent manner where she was disrespected. Again this matches Ross’s overall position of feeling it was his behaviour that was ‘unexplainable’ and ‘abominable’ and hence he had an uneasy and guilty conscience for what he considered was his offence to her.

An Oath On No Consent

"I swear on this bible, as a believing Christian and in the hope of my ultimate salvation, that I have never, never given my body to any man except to my first husband, Francis, and to you, George."
Elizabeth to George with a Bible in hand ‘The Four Swans'  Internal Book 2 Chapter 9 Pt4

If there is any doubt about Elizabeth's evidence on consent, then her decision to swear on the bible is yet another submission of evidence that is powerful, clear and consistent from her. It came about through her attempt to try to allay George's suspicions about Valentine's paternity. Clearly, as a believing Christian, Elizabeth was more comfortable with lying by omission to George than telling an explicit lie on God's holy book, The Bible. Otherwise she could have directly addressed George's suspicion by simply swearing on it that Valentine was his biological son and no other man could be this. However in that case she would have been lying both to George and upon the bible. The fact that Elizabeth so carefully worded her oath as she did inadvertently helps any uncertain reader feel even more clearer on the question of rape since her wording happened to directly address the issue of consent. Of course it would make little sense for Elizabeth to word her oath so carefully if the end the wording she opted for would mean she was still telling a lie on the bible. In fact readers can then believe that Elizabeth worded the oath so the statement made was therefore technically true. With an oath on the bible that she had essentially freely ‘given’ her body to all the men she had slept with, with the exclusion of Ross, this was Elizabeth’s most convincing and most credible evidence which once again only corroborates Ross's own admission of taking her against her will.    

She Waited For Him - Does That Mean It cannot be Rape!

'In some moods she felt she never wanted to see him again. But those moods were by no means constant.' 
Narrative on Elizabeth 'Warleggan' (Internal Book 3 Chapter 10)

Despite Ross's actions and intent in taking Elizabeth knowing that at the time of the taking that he did not have her consent, readers and particularly viewers of the television adaptations may reject a finding of Rape against Ross based on Elizabeth's response and her musing post rape. The key things noted for this outlook is 
her decision to postpone her wedding to George, and her musings of Ross's caresses. There is also her musings that Ross had no money for them to run away together and Ross had not proposed it. This is together with her upset that Ross had not come to see her since the incident. However, again these things are red herrings which should not distract from the fact that Ross had still committed the act of Rape regardless. 

Acquaintance Rape Makes A Difference 

To truly understand Elizabeth's reflections there needs to be understanding that what Ross did to her would fall under 
'Acquaintance rape'. This is rape by someone known to the victim and therefore who like Ross and Elizabeth may have had long or perhaps still a short history but of a romantic nature in some way, or just a friendship which could include a bond of trust and affection. Naturally, there is very often a much more complex set of emotions when raped by someone who prior to then had been a trusted and admired person and whose behaviour was on the other hand in this unexpected incident dishonourable, violent and wildly out of character. Added to that is the additional complexity of the perpetrator presenting their act of rape as a response to some provocation by the victim and thus hitting a sore spot as in Elizabeth’s case. This is because just as set out in her letter to Ross Elizabeth had previously felt bad that her decision to marry George would inflict pain on him. Whereas with no such history and baggage it would often be the case that the outrage and trauma and also the victim's response to rape by a stranger would differ in some ways. That would include in respect of the feelings and attitude toward the perpetrator and it is more unlikely a victim of stranger rape would want to see their perpetrator again. This differs somewhat with acquaintance rape.

Actually statistics do show some aspects of a different attitude towards a stranger perpetrator since there is a much higher number of women who would acknowledge they have been raped by a stranger. This is less likely in the case of acquaintance rape with records showing that in studies undertaken only 27% of victims even recognise what happened to them as rape. This just highlights the different kind of response such a victim is likely to
have as Elizabeth did. This is in not necessarily viewing and recognising that acquaintance (Ross) through the very damning and sinister framing of a 'rapist' label. In the case of Ross, for the same reason the reader/viewer whose journey with his character may by then be one of affection and seeing him as a person who is essentially good, decent and even honourable, could have the same struggles as Elizabeth to now see him that way too. That is because of the inner conflict of not feeling or knowing him to fit the profile of a ‘rapist’. So the reader’s failure to fully condemn Ross in this way and to define him as a rapist is merely reflected in Elizabeth’s failure to do the same. This is why there is a much lower rate of such victims reporting their acquaintance rapist to the police. 

Accordingly research shows that victims of Acquaintance rape don’t necessarily even cut ties with their acquaintance perpetrator but often maintain contact with them for a number of reasons. This could include 
for the sake of closure, regaining control and/or trying to reshape what happened to them. There is also financial dependency, the need to keep a job if it’s a boss or a colleague who is powerful in their position, and also societal and cultural conditioning. Some of these could apply in Elizabeth's case including the feeling some victims have of still feeling affection for the perpetrator whilst hating what their acquaintance did to them.
Readers arguing against Ross’s actions as rape and therefore acquaintance rape may focus on the parts of Elizabeth’s reflections which seem favourable to this. For instance, such as her musings on what Ross could offer her, potentially not for romantic reasons but as a way out of a marriage to George she in any event had reservations on. They could then 
ignore the bits that show negative emotions against him for his behaviour on the night and his disrespect in not visiting since. However, Graham showed her emotions as conflicting and therefore very typical of an acquaintance rape victim; such as when he wrote in those few days after the incident before she had time to be clearer on her feelings, that 'In some moods she (Elizabeth) felt she never wanted to see him again. But those moods were by no means constant.' She flitted from asking why did he have to come that night, to expressing hate for him and finally in the scene of her internal musings whilst George was present, to her vowing to do anything against him. "I shall be George's heart and soul, his faithful wife and faithful friend. Anything I can do against Ross. Why did he have to Come?"

Wanting Ross to visit her 

So in Elizabeth’s case there were indeed
complicated feelings and attitudes towards her acquaintance perpetrator, who in this case was her first calf love and close friend thereafter too. It is entirely reasonable and normal, in the context of what Elizabeth as a victim may have seen as behaviour by Ross that was 'out of character' and perhaps if she did feel guilty that it was also in response to hurt she caused him, for her to have wanted to see him and to talk to him in the aftermath. It is reasonable for her to have wanted to know his thoughts on it and to be afforded the respect of an explanation or an apology after the event. This is, if only for closure or even to see from that if their friendship could or should be salvaged. Elizabeth's postponement of her wedding is not evidence of or indicative of her not being a victim of acquaintance rape. After such an experience, it is understandable to crave some healing time or time to process. Just as Elizabeth felt many others might feel it is wrong or their own personal discomfort to go from one man’s caresses to another man’s so quickly, as it might have been for her to go from this man’s caresses to turning up a few days later at a church in order to marry another man. This would normally be worse having not yet had the chance to meet and try to get closure with Ross as the acquaintance perpetrator who she had a romantic history with. 

No Romance In Rape (Including this one)

The Caresses

Elizabeth’s recollection of caresses from Ross are another red herring as they also do not in anyway undermine the occurrence of acquaintance rape by Ross. With acquaintance rape, where there is a history between the two and some romantic feeling by the perpetrator towards the victim, it is probably more to be expected that during the act and sexual contact with the victim, that this would include kisses and caresses from the perpetrator. The same applies for 
Elizabeth in her situation and even with Ross's anger and then his gradually declining anger, that he would kiss and caress her during the course of his act. The issue is not the caresses but that they were unwanted and more importantly that there was no specific suggestion that the caresses were reciprocated by Elizabeth. So it is a distraction to dwell on the caresses that Elizabeth reflected Ross gave her, because in any event Graham narrated Ross doing other sexual acts before taking her by force. Graham described that after turning her face to avoid him kissing her, that Ross ‘…,caught her (Elizabeth) again, and this time began to kiss her with intense passion, to which anger had given an extra relish, before anger was lost.’ Despite this being described as a ‘passionate’ kiss from Ross (which some might still see romantically), it was still part of the unwanted sexual advances to elizabeth which the caresses are part of too. Elizabeth responded to that kiss by smacking Ross's face and thereafter asking him to “Let me go, Ross!” 

"After the initial resistance...", -less resistance doesn’t mean willingness 

There should be no doubt that the level of aggression from Ross may have varied at points during the act as it progressed. Especially if Elizabeth overpowered by this initially angry but in any case determined strong man, adopted either the freeze or flop panic response of 'The five Fs typical victim responses during a rape'. Though this may mean she stopped resisting (as Morwenna did with Reverend Ossis Whitworth before she started to refuse him completely), any such lack of resistance after the ‘taking’ does not mean a change and increase of willingness as Ross may have believed. But when he met Elizabeth at Sawle Graveyard three years later and kissed her farewell, Graham continue his suggestions that the sexual advances from the 'May incident' were unwanted and unromantic as he wrote that the kisses at the Graveyard were
'Nothing at all violent, this time...' Overall, in spite of Elizabeth's reference to caresses, in line with Ross's guilty conscience of his 'misdeeds' to her, the general impression given by Elizabeth of her general experience with Ross, was abusive. This was charged by anger and hate in the moment as covered in the post 'Ross Poldark's Fall from Grace' which explores Ross's emotions which led him to commit this rape. So understandably when Elizabeth tried to flee Ross in the Graveyard and he caught her arm, she called for him to let her go and as if suggesting he had been, she said "Or are you still so much the brute and the bully?" Also her comment to him that "If your purpose in what you did was destruction, then you altogether succeeded.", maintains the idea that this was a night where as is the unromantic nature of rape, Ross impose his control and violence rather than tender loving and consideration. In accordance with Elizabeth's reflection Ross's too were consistently unromantic. In the penultimate book of the saga he thought of '...the few minutes of anger and lust and overpowering frustration from which Valentine could have been born.' 'The Twisted Sword' (Internal book 3 chapter 8 part 5)


(Part 4) Finally!! Winston Graham Confirms A Case Of Rape

Of course while Elizabeth's firm testimony is powerful, the greatest authority of all goes to the omniscient Winston Graham who is the story's creator. As the all seeing and all knowing, Winston Graham has the final say in his capacity as narrator and author. While readers may assume that Graham was silent on the question of rape in respect of Ross Poldark's behaviour for that May incident but was not in respect of Reverend Whitworth, this is not quite correct at all. He did speak out in two ways. Firstly, most astute readers will have picked up that in the last book 'Bella Poldark', when Ross was taken to Trenwith after being involved in an accident, Graham narrated that '...Amadora, all ignorance put him in the very bedroom where he (Ross) had taken Elizabeth against her will twenty seven or more years ago ...'  (Internal Book 5 Chapter 8) By repeating Ross's admission as narration Winston Graham confirmed this as a fact of the story. He was blunt about what Ross had done and did not do what the average perpetrator might do (including Ross) and add on to this admission in order to soften the wrongdoing or divert to a red herring.

The book 'Bella Poldark' where Graham endorsed Ross's admission of rape, was published in 2002. However as a second way of speaking out on the rape as rape, and this being in accordance with how he narrated that Ross in the first book - first edition had defined rape, Graham showed consistency in his position and once again with absolutely no framing like Ross did to allow for a softer consideration of the 'May incident'. This was in an interview he gave to the Radio Time magazine edition dated, 11th September 1977. Ahead of the second season of the 70s version of Poldark for the BBC aired in the UK, Graham wrote a piece for the magazine about the leading characters and introducing some new ones. In that he recapped the story thus far stating that when Elizabeth agreed to marry George 'Ross, goaded beyond endurance, calls upon her (Elizabeth) and takes her by force.' Having already discussed that a violent taking applies when a victim is not freely offering and giving consent to be taken, the same applies with force. Force is used when there is resistance, which Ross stated Elizabeth did do before the first shock. Hence this is yet another reference and author confirmation that Elizabeth was taken against her will. It is both inscrutable and perplexing to propose that this was an episode where there was consent when all parties agree that there was not. Certainly it is hard to imagine that if this was not an incident of rape and Ross was in fact innocent of this, that Graham would make his two statements of Elizabeth taken against her will and again by force, and do so without some qualification. Instead for him, it was as simple as that, and as the omniscient narrator/author Graham's statements and the tone of them in respect of Ross's behaviour to Elizabeth on 9th May 1793 serve as a clear no nonsense judgement of Rape. This is as per the carnal law on this and Ross's own understanding of this too. Therefore in light of this and all the above, the same finding of rape is also made here too

Two Rapes- Identical Scenarios 

'Once she resisted and once her hit her, but after that she made no protest. So eventually he laid her naked on the bed where she curled up like a frightened snail.....before he raped her.'
'The Black Moon' (Internal Book 3 Chapter 12).

Proving it an empty comment, just like Ross said
to Elizabeth, Reverend Whitworth could have
said that at this time Morwenna did not treat
him like the devil. 
It is now that the reader can consider that Winston Graham naming Morwenna's first night with Reverend Ossie Whitworth as a rape is the biggest indicator of his expressed finding of Elizabeth as subject to the same. This is because the description of Morwenna's traumatic first night of marital rape contains the same elements as Elizabeth's night with Ross did. It was essentially the same. Like Elizabeth, Morwenna did resist 'initially'. Both Elizabeth and Morwenna met a violent response to that. The Reverend hit Morwenna and laid her on the bed. Ross pinioned Elizabeth's arms and carried her to the bed. It is clear that whether Elizabeth resisted in a fight response or not, is of no consequence since he wrote that Morwenna made no further protest before being taken to the bed and then herself taken, and yet Winston Graham still considered that a rape and said so. This being the case, it cannot then be expected that with the same scenario for Elizabeth that Graham as a man of intelligence and insight would not think the same for her too. It is the reason he said with clarity that Elizabeth was also taken against her will and by force!

Why The MAJOR Incident Of The Saga Was Unwritten

 "I wanted to do a love story with a happy ending and that was it." 
      Winston Graham after writing the first four books - Evening Argos, Weekend Magazine 20/21 January 2001

How would the reader/viewer feel about Ross and 
Demelza's reconciliation if the full details of 
his rape of Elizabeth had been shown to them? 
In finding that Ross did indeed rape Elizabeth, the glaring question is why then did Winston not write the rape scene into the book? In truth, the average person will probably be able to guess why based on their own feeling had it been written in. As to be discussed in the upcoming post, ‘Resisting A Finding Of Rape’, the reason is surely the same reason as to why the screen writers for both adaptions of this 'Warleggan' scene in the 70s, and the most current series, either added scenes to imply the sex had been consensual, or in the case of the 70s version removed so much of Ross's aggression and violence, and so much dialogue of Elizabeth protesting in the scene (before Ross was supposed to carry Elizabeth to the bed), so as not to give the impression that the temperature of Ross’s rage against protest was
high enough for a forceful taking of Ross by Elizabeth to be likely to have followed.

Rule 2: Protect the romantic hero for a truly happy ending 

Makers of the most recent adaptation express the same sentiment
and concern that Winston Graham likely had to protect the
reputation of the lead romantic character in addressing
the rape scene.
To not write the scene and therefore not imprint details and visuals of Ross's heinous act of rape against Elizabeth helps to balance disappointment of Ross's infidelity and the grim nature of it against outright condemnation of him. The mystery and vagueness protects Ross’s character from that and from being reviled by the reader. Indeed, unlike with Reverend Ossie Whitworth the aim would have been to sustain Ross as the story's romantic hero, albeit a slightly flawed one. 
Typically, the number one rule for a love story is for a happy ending with the protagonist couple ending up together. Winston Graham seemingly did not wish to divert from that traditional golden rule. He had specifically said that he intended to write a love story with a happy ending and that he thought that he had achieved that when he concluded ‘Warleggan’. But would it have been a happy ending for the reader who not only having to cope with Ross declared and labelled as a rapist, was also subjected to the detailed visuals of him in this act? A harrowing unpleasant rape scene by the romantic lead surely would have impacted on the reader's enthusiasm in rooting for his love interest and the story's heroine, Demelza to reconcile with a husband who not only cheated on her but did so by rape. Ross as a confirmed rapist with no element of doubt on this for comfort for some readers (and viewers), would have killed the complete joy of a reconciliation or just cast a cloud over the loveliness of the coupling of the lead characters. Instead a smart author such as Winston Graham who truly wanted that happy ending feeling for his readers would not want to subdue that feeling by so bluntly and specifically condemning his romantic hero with what would be considered by many as way more than just a 'flaw'.  

Of course Winston Graham did not just protect Ross from total reader condemnation by not writing the rape scene, but the opportunity to write a further eight books in any event gave the opportunity for a reset and constant reminders of the far better side to Ross’s character. Also the overall beauty of him and his ongoing love story with Demelza is reinforced as he continues as a protagonist in the role of father and family man among other heroic endeavours and perhaps some redemptive story lines concerning the ill fated outcome of the rape, Valentine. However, specific to the rape these opportunities included red herrings which are touched upon in this post. All of these do work to soften the blow of Ross's act and are to be the focus in that upcoming post covering the points made to Resist The Finding Of Rape against Ross Poldark. 

Rape support services 

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