How rape myths are used and challenged in rape and sexual assault trials

Smith, Olivia and Skinner, Tina (2017) How rape myths are used and challenged in rape and sexual assault trials. Social and Legal Studies, 26 (4). pp. 441-466. ISSN 1461-7390

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Court responses to rape and sexual assault have been repeatedly criticised in England and Wales (Brown, Horvath, Kelly & Westmarland, 2010). In particular, research has identified prevalent stereotypes about rape in both the Criminal Justice System and wider society, with these rape myths often being used as the predominant explanation for inadequate victim/survivor treatment (see Temkin & Krahé, 2008). The existing literature, though, tends to rely on interviews or is out-dated by policy, so the present research uses court observations to explore what is actually happening in adult rape and sexual assault trials. The findings show that rape myths are still routinely used at trial, but that they are sometimes resisted using judicial directions or prosecution comments. In addition, the research highlights how rape myths are kept ‘relevant’ to trial through a focus on inconsistencies, a dichotomy of wholly truthful/untruthful witnesses, and conceptualisations of ‘rational’ behaviour as being the ‘normal’ way to act. These findings provide a new understanding of rape myths and have implications for policy; in particular, that while training legal professionals is helpful, it cannot be expected to fully address the use of rape myths.

Item Type: Journal Article
Keywords: rape, sexual assault, trials, criminal justice system, rape myths, rationality, courts
Faculty: ARCHIVED Faculty of Arts, Law & Social Sciences (until September 2018)
Depositing User: Ian Walker
Date Deposited: 26 Oct 2016 15:39
Last Modified: 10 Feb 2022 16:58

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