Posts Tagged ‘rape myths’

RapeCrisisPostcardNikki Godden is a lecturer in law at Newcastle Law School.

(Picture card ‘this is not an invitation to rape me’ from Rape Crisis Scotland.)

The low conviction rate for rape – approximately 6 per cent where convictions are measured out of the number of reported cases – and the high rate at which rape cases filter out of the criminal justice system before trial is well known. One common explanation for these statistics is that rape complainants and cases are judged by reference to rape myths, which are false assumptions as to what constitutes rape, and when, where and between whom sex is typically non-consensual. Examples of rape myths are propositions such as: a woman wearing a short skirt is more likely to have consented to sex than a woman wearing less revealing clothing; rape victim-survivors report the incident immediately to the police; rape victim-survivors typically physically resist the perpetrator; subsequent sexual engagements between two people are more likely to be consensual than the first time they had sex. Failing to reflect women’s lived experiences of sexual violations, it is often said that reference to these myths result in complainants being treated with suspicion, cases not being adequately investigated or prosecuted, and defendants being acquitted relatively frequently. However, in an article in the Oxford Journal of Legal Studies which was summarised in the media (see here for example), Helen Reece argues that ‘rape myths’ are not as widespread as is commonly claimed, and do not hinder the investigation and prosecution of rape cases to the extent that is argued by many researchers, feminist activists and policy-makers. (more…)

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yvetteYvette Russell is a lecturer in law at Queen’s University Belfast.  This post was first published by Critical Legal Thinking and is reproduced here with permission and thanks.

As Luis Suárez joined Johan le Roux and Mike Tyson  in the annals of sports-biting history last month, across the water in Northern Ireland Alvin Rouse continues to play in goal for Ballinamallard United Football Club, despite facing three counts of rape, two of sexual assault, one of causing a person to engage in a sexual act and one of false imprisonment.

The difference in the narratives of the two cases is striking, as is the institutional response. Suárez was immediately fined by Liverpool for biting Ivanovic and received a 10-match ban from the FA for ‘violent conduct’.  For similar offences, Le Roux was banned for 19-months, and Tyson for one year with a $3 million fine.    (more…)

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End victim blamingLaura Graham is a Lecturer in Law at Durham Law School and co-convenor of Gender and Law at Durham, and Michael Passaro is a member of Gender and Law at Durham.

Trigger Warning: This article contains descriptions of sexual assault.

Today a number of anti-rape and anti-harassment groups have called for an International Day Against Victim Blaming, marking the two-year anniversary of the first ever Slutwalk on April 3rd 2011 in Toronto, Canada. Slutwalk began as a protest against a remark made during a campus safety information session at Osgoode Hall Law School by Constable Michael Sanguinetti, a Toronto Police officer, that women could avoid sexual assault by not ‘dressing like sluts’. Clearly, this message places the onus on women to take measures not to be raped. This message is hardly new – we receive it all the time through from the media, from women-focused ‘rape prevention tips’, from MPs and celebrities. In fact, this victim blaming attitude is so pervasive that in a 2005 Amnesty International survey found that 26% of respondents thought that a woman was wholly or partially responsible for her rape if she was wearing ‘sexy or revealing’ clothing; and 30% of respondents thought she was wholly or partially responsible for her rape if she was drunk. Yet, the overt victim blaming from someone in a position of responsibility and authority caused such outrage that it provoked a march in protest, the first of many in a movement which spread globally. While there have been many valid criticisms of the Slutwalk movement (in particular, that ‘slut’ is so entrenched in misogyny that it cannot be reclaimed, and that Slutwalk ignored the different impact the term ‘slut’ and its ‘reclamation’ has on women of colour), the message that victims/survivors of rape should never be blamed is one that should be taken seriously. This message deserves recognition all year long, not just on this day.

However, given that today marks International Day Against Victim Blaming, we wanted to discuss an incident that has been receiving a lot of press coverage in the US, but which has been surprisingly underreported in the UK. This is the case of Jane Doe in Steubenville, Ohio, a shocking example of victim blaming if ever there was one.


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IB imageSnapshots of law, gender and sexuality news from the past couple of weeks

House of Commons votes in favour of Same-Sex Marriage Bill 

Jesse Bachir

On the 5th February, the House of Commons voted in favour of passing the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill, with David Cameron’s support.  The Bill passed in the Commons with 400 votes for to 175 against. However, there are still some inequalities that will need to be dealt with; inequalities that are being carried over from same-sex civil partnerships.

When civil partnerships came into effect, there was no definition of sex between members of the same sex. Now, when the same-sex marriage bill is about to be passed, this problem has still not been addressed by the government. Currently, legally, sexual intercourse is defined as penile-vaginal penetration – which obviously only defines sexual intercourse in relation to opposite-sex sexual intercourse. Because same sex couples were unable to meet this definition, when civil partnerships came into effect, non-consummation was not grounds for dissolving the partnership. This same problem is being carried over into the same-sex marriage bill, as the government has not taken the time to redefine or rethink the definitions of sexual intercourse or consummation.


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Laura Taylor

Laura is an MJur student at Durham Law School, Durham University.

Even today our legal system continues to fail to protect women from all forms of violence. Commonly cited examples are those of rape and sexual offences more generally, where attrition rates are high, and adequate support of the victim is lacking at all stages of the legal process. Instead of providing support for all victims of sexual violence in the criminal justice system, ‘rape myths’ act to reinforce the notion of a chaste, virgin, victim, who is attacked by a stranger in a dark alley at night. By comparison the overwhelming majority of victims who do not conform to this expectation, perhaps because of their familiar relationship with the defendant, their dress, or flirtatious behaviour, are often considered to be ‘asking for it’. Consequently the victim is condemned as the guilty party.

This places our legal system in a shameful position, yet despite these failings it has never regressed to a stage where we formally criminalise the rape victim (although notably a rape victim was recently imprisoned for withdrawing her case from the criminal justice system, following pressure from an abusive husband and his family). Sad to say, that is precisely what has happened in Afghanistan, by way of a crime known as “adultery by force”.  Furthermore, there are fears that as the foreign military presence in the country lessen that the problem will become worse. (more…)

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Jennifer Hey

(Blog Editor)

It has been over 10 years since the implementation of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 and the introduction of a blanket ban on sexual history evidence with four gateway exceptions under S.41. The Act was designed to limit the amount of sexual history evidence which was brought into the court room. This blog will question whether or not there has been any effect on the attrition or conviction rate for rape.  (more…)

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Nikki Godden

Typically, feminists are resistant to the idea of responding to rape  – or sexual violence more generally – through restorative justice. After decades of campaigning to get the harms women suffer recognised in politics and law, their concerns that such a move will trivialise rape and provide only ‘cheap justice’ are fair. So too are the criticisms that restorative justice cannot address or appropriately account for the gendered power imbalances between the victim and offender, and that, as a result, it may cause further harm to the victim and fail to protect her and others from future violence. (more…)

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