British Prosecutors to Challenge Rape Myths in Court

by Cara on April 21, 2009

in bigotry, courts, Europe, International, misogyny, patriarchy, rape and sexual assault, slut-shaming, stereotypes, violence against women and girls

I am seriously a month behind on this story out of Britain, but the news is interesting enough that I still think it’s worth our time to take a look at. It has apparently been made an official part of policy in rape cases for prosecutors to “robustly challenge” rape myths in court:

Prosecutors have been told to “robustly” challenge myths surrounding rape victims, such as women are asking to be attacked if they drink, when in front of juries.

Other myths include victim provoke rape by the way they dress, rape is a crime of passion and if the victim did not scream then it was not rape.

Revised policy guidance from the Crown Prosecution Service pledges it will not allow such stereotypes to influence its decisions and told prosecutors to dispel such attitudes when in the courtroom.

Other myths to be challenged are the way a victim acts proves whether she was raped or not, victims cry rape if they regret having sex or want revenge, only gay men are raped and prostitutes cannot be raped.

I think this is absolutely brilliant, and also long overdue. I’ve been wanting to see this happen for a long, long time. First of all, it’s no secret that our culture is steeped in rape myths, and that jurors bring those rape myths to court. How could they not? It’s also no secret that defense attorneys play heavily off of these myths, and openly promote them in support of their clients as a supposed form of “vigorous defense” (see the entire “rape and sexual assault” category).

The revised guidelines are apparently at least in part a response to the stomach-churning results of a recent government poll, which showed that myths about domestic violence and rape still run rampant.  I don’t think that it’s enough to wait to educate jurors until they actually have to decide on such a case (there should also be a vigorous public education campaign).  And there are other myths I’d like to see challenged (perhaps included in the guidelines but not in this article; I don’t know), including the “well she didn’t say no” myth, the “trans people can’t be raped” myth, the “waiting to report means it didn’t really happen” myth, and more.  Perhaps most importantly of all, I imagine that it will also be up to individual prosecutors to dedicate themselves to actually using this strategy.

But I’m glad that someone in a position of power took a look at that poll, was at least somewhere near as appalled as us feminists are, and decided to do something about it.  And with all of the problems with the legal treatment of rape cases, it’s a hell of a lot better of an idea than this other one, to set target conviction rates (which seems to merely result in fewer cases being tried).

It seems like perfect common sense to me, to pull apart the myth that the defense is using to sway the jury.  I seriously hope that it helps with conviction rates, though at this point I’m unsure if it will, and if it does it will probably take some time.  But I think that at the very least, it’s important in the sense that it gives victims that extra sense of dignity, to have someone stand up next to the lying rape apologists and say, in essence, “this is bullshit.”  At the very, absolute bare minimum, surely they deserve that much.

via SAFER

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{ 3 comments }

1 Brandy April 21, 2009 at 9:53 am

That is great news. Even if it doesn’t make a huge impact immediately (which we know it won’t) it is still a step in the right direction. The government, by taking a step towards a myth-free dialog in the courtroom, is heading towards a normalization of the truth about rape (myth-free). It’s teaspoons, as they say on Shakesville, but its something.

2 Anna April 21, 2009 at 12:11 pm

‘way a victim acts proves whether she was raped or not’

so, so, SO cynical on this one, since that was the main reason the CPS dropped my case. I’d like it to make a difference, but I just don’t believe it will.

3 SunlessNick April 21, 2009 at 1:08 pm

Good to see.

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