Rape Myths Flourishing

From The Guardian/UK:

Judges have undermined a law intended to stop defence lawyers cross-examining women in rape cases about their sexual history, by continuing to insist on their discretion to allow it, a new book discloses. 

Interviews with 17 judges in London and Manchester found that some insisted they still had a wide discretion to allow questions on sexual history, although the law was changed in 2000 to impose severe limits on questioning. 

One judge described the provision as “pretty pathetic because it’s get-roundable”.

Another said: “I’m not one for being unduly fettered. I’ve been appointed to do a job on the basis that I have a certain amount of judgment, and to be fettered or shackled by statutory constraints I don’t think helps anybody.” 

The conviction rate in rape cases remains stubbornly low – only 5.7% of cases reported to police, despite a series of legal reforms aimed at boosting it. 

The limits on introducing sexual history were intended to prevent defence lawyers from feeding into jury prejudices about rape by making the complainant seem less deserving. 

Sexual Assault and the Justice Gap: A Question of Attitude, to be published by Hart Publishing on April 15, puts much of the blame for the low conviction rate on myths and stereotypes about the crime. 

The authors say the entire justice process is affected, from the initial decision to report the rape to police, through to conviction or acquittal by a jury. 

The authors – Jennifer Temkin, professor of law at Sussex University, and Barbara Krahe, professor of social psychology at the University of Potsdam in Germany – found stereotypical views about rape were widespread among potential jurors. 

Their survey of more than 2,000 members of the public aged 18-69 showed people tended to blame the woman for bringing the attack on herself, see a case where the man had sex with a woman without her consent when she was drunk as not a “real rape”, and downplay the seriousness of having forced sex when the perpetrator was the woman’s former partner. 

The views were also found to be common when the authors outlined a range of rape scenarios to British undergraduate law students in their final year and a group of British graduates doing professional law training, the lawyers and judges of the future.   more here

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