Is James Whitehouse Guilty or Innocent in Anatomy of a Scandal? Did He Commit the Rape?

Based on the 2018 book of the same name by Sarah Vaughan, ‘Anatomy of a Scandal’ is a gripping thriller about entitlement, power, and consent. James Whitehouse (Rupert Friend) is a Member of Parliament and the home office minister in the Tory government led by Prime Minister Tom Southern. He studied at Oxford and was a member of the Libertine club, an all-male exclusive fraternity for Oxford students. It is there that he and Southern became close friends.

James’ wife, Sophie (Sienna Miller), also attended Oxford. They were both extremely good-looking young individuals belonging to the top tier of British society. It wasn’t long before they started dating and eventually decided to build a life together. That life gets threatened when James is accused of raping his political aide, Olivia, inside an elevator in the House of Commons. If you are wondering whether James is guilty or innocent, this is what you may need to know. SPOILERS AHEAD.

 Is James Whitehouse Guilty or Innocent?

James and Sophie’s carefully-crafted world starts to fall apart in the face of the allegations. Olivia was James’ political aide. She is pretty, passionate, and extremely competent at her job. The attraction that developed between them was very organic. Soon enough, they were having sex at some of the most unlikely places, including public ones. The illicit and clandestine aspects of their affair made it exciting for them. They craved that sense of danger that naturally came with it. However, James had no desire to continue the affair for a long period and eventually ended things. Olivia accepted his decision even though she had fallen in love with him.

The trial revolves around an incident that took place sometime after they had broken up. James was frustrated about a particularly unfavorable piece on him. He was supposed to attend the Home Affairs Select Committee meeting to give new evidence on the immigration targets, and Olivia was accompanying him. When he realized that most people there have likely read the piece, he decided that he didn’t want to face them.

This trial entirely hinges on the accounts of the two individuals involved. There is no third-party perspective, no witnesses, and no evidence. It all comes down to the believability of what James and Olivia are saying. British laws are quite clear about the concept of consent. It can be withdrawn at any point during a sexual encounter. So, the main question that emerges during the trial is whether or not Olivia withdrew her consent.

Their recollections of what happened that day begin to veer in different directions after James turned away from the meeting room. According to their respective accounts, the other person took charge of the encounter. For instance, Olivia claims that James was the one who entered the elevator and held it open so she could enter as well. In contrast, James claims that Olivia was the one who called the elevator and was the first one to enter there. According to Olivia, things started consensually once they were inside the elevator. But she began to grow uncomfortable when James became forceful and told him “not here,” but he didn’t listen. James asserts that no word was exchanged.

One thing is for sure here: one of them is lying. By the end of the series, we pretty much know who it is. Unfortunately, the jury is not privy to such knowledge. In their verdict, they declare James not guilty, clearing him of the rape charges. But, having seen all six episodes, we know who James truly is. When he was in Oxford, he sexually assaulted Holly Berry, Sophie’s study partner. He even said the very words to Holly that Olivia claims he said to her: “Don’t be such a p****-tease.” It is later revealed that Holly is actually Kate, and that’s why she has been so sure of James’ guilt.

Did James Commit the Rape?

Since he was a child, James was allowed to lie by his parents, encouraged even. While it’s a useful tool in politics, it’s an undesirable trait in almost everything else. While writing the book, Vaughan was inspired by a telephonic conversation she had with Boris Johnson. This was right after he was fired from his positions as Vice-Chairman and Shadow Arts Minister by the then-Conservative leader Michael Howard for reportedly lying about his affair with Spectator columnist Petronella Wyatt.

While James is not based on Johnson, Vaughan was fascinated by Johnson’s relationship with the truth and incorporated it into James’ characterization. So, we can conclude that there was a point during the incident when Olivia did say “not here,” withdrawing her consent. But because of his colossal sense of entitlement, James didn’t listen. Olivia was indeed a victim of rape.

Read More: Do Sophie and James Break Up in Anatomy of a Scandal?