Rape is rape. So why haven’t you heard about this serial rapist?

A man was convicted on Friday of raping five women in 14 years and sexually assaulting another. You may be surprised to read this, because there’s a good chance it didn’t appear in your daily newspaper or Twitter feed. How the hell did everybody miss this case of a serial rapist on the prowl for more than a decade?

The details don’t make it any more palatable. Jonathon Mallon’s victims were all vulnerable women. One of the rapes took place in a swimming pool cubicle, with children playing just outside. Another was in a cinema toilet. The police officer who headed the inquiry called Mallon a “a calculating individual who preyed on the vulnerability of his victims” before “carrying out horrific acts on each and every one of them”.

There is only one reason I can think of why Mallon’s crimes weren’t more extensively reported. All the women he raped had one thing in common: they were in relationships with him.

Viewed objectively there ought to be no distinction between rape by a partner and rape by a stranger. “Rape is rape,” as the campaigners rightly keep telling us. Both scenarios are hideously traumatic, and rape in a domestic context involves not just a violation of the person, but a grievous betrayal of trust. But it’s clear from the coverage of this case that we’re still poor at putting the dictum that “rape is rape” into practice.

Imagine for a minute if Mallon, instead of raping his girlfriends, had attacked six random women in public parks over 14 years. The police would have issued public warnings and possibly put more officers on the street. Newspapers would have run appeals, exhaustive updates on the investigation and psychological profiles of the (unknown) rapist. It would more than likely have featured on Crimewatch. And when the case came to court there would have been a phalanx of reporters and cameras outside, accompanied by a torrent of angry social media commentary, damning soundbites from politicians and lengthy comment pieces bemoaning the breakdown of society.

To be fair, some of these measures wouldn’t have been appropriate in Mallon’s case. There was no call for a Crimewatch appeal, for instance, when his victims knew exactly where their rapist was: sleeping in their beds. But it’s harder to justify the scant coverage that the case received once Mallon came to court, and harder still once he was convicted at the end of a lengthy trial. The awful truth is that what Ken Clarke infamously called “classic rape” still sits more easily in the public mind with the concept of “every woman’s nightmare”, even though such instances are mercifully rare.

Yet Mallon was every bit as much a danger to women as the savage loner who lurks in parks after dark. He simply chose his victims in a different way, selecting vulnerable young women and earning their trust in unthreatening environments such as church gatherings. His true nature only emerged once their defences were down. He may not have held a knife to their throats, but he used threats and control to ensure they were powerless to say no. And like many a practised abuser, he employed violence carefully, so as to leave no visible scars. As one victim said in court, “It’s easier to cover up rape than a black eye”.

It’s no good simply blaming the media either. The case didn’t receive vast amounts of coverage, but there was enough to allow it to be widely distributed if people had really cared. The STV News website (for which I published Glasgow Courts Agency’s report) has more than 90,000 followers. Fewer than ten of them had retweeted the story within 24 hours.

It was also the first conviction to arise from the work of Renfrewshire and Inverclyde’s Rape Investigation Unit. The horrific extent of Mallon’s crimes only became apparent once the team had drawn up a timeline of his violent relationships. As Inspector Mark McGowan told the Daily Record: “Some of them believed that no one would take them seriously because they had been in a relationship.” It leaves me wondering how many other women are suffering domestic rape behind closed doors, and why we aren’t more bothered about it. In time we may come to find that the rapist in the bedroom is as much “every woman’s nightmare” as the monster in the park.

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