Everyday Victim Blaming

challenging institutional disbelief around domestic & sexual violence and abuse

Campaign for the mandatory briefing of jurors in sexual violence in rape, sexual assault & sexual abuse trials

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A survivor's experience of the criminal justice system

"My ex- partner walked free from court when he was found not guilty of raping and sexually abusing me. From the second I reported, I was told not to expect a guilty verdict IF it made it to court.

I was fortunate in that my case was referred to the Crown Court by the CPS but I still feel much wounded that he is a free man.

The tide was against me. My rape was historical, so no evidence, and was committed by my partner whilst I was asleep. My sexual abuse took place inside and outside the home. I was told that people still find it hard to believe that rape happens in a relationship that somehow consent goes without saying.

I do believe that if JURIES had been involved, my ex would have been found guilty. Such is the strength of rape myths, it requires specialist organisations like JURIES to educate the public.

Partners can and do rape and sexually abuse.

If you are asleep, you cannot consent to sex.

Just because you say no sometimes doesn’t mean you always have the strength to say no.

When you are in a relationship it is pretty impossible to report and you feel so ashamed and brain washed that you keep it secret."

Why we started JURIES
This is one of many such experiences. Victims and survivors of sexual violence continue to be failed by the criminal justice system, despite two decades of significant legal reforms. For this reason, we felt that we had to do something to ensure that victims and survivors of sexual violence get as fair a deal as they possibly can, in court.

Time and time again, we see rape myths, stereotypes and victim blaming in the mainstream and social media. It is of huge concern to us that as juries are constituted from the public, jurors' views are deeply prejudicial and have a significant impact on verdicts. We know this to be the case from the body of research that has been carried out in this area.

Whilst prosecuting barristers and judges are supposed to receive specialist training about sexual violence, members of the public who play a pivotal role in the criminal justice process do not. This has to change.

We are, therefore, challenging the Government to introduce a pre-trial briefing that would be mandatory; to be played in court that would challenge the pre-conceived myths and stereotypes, prior to a trial beginning. Myths and stereotypes can already be challenged at the end of the trial, but that is too late. Some judges also may advise the jury, but there is no prescribed text, not all judges do, and no-one knows just what is said or when.

If you don’t understand or don’t know that your knowledge on rape is flawed, you won’t question it. But as rape is still very much a taboo subject, what people believe is often information gleaned from the TV or news media, and often totally inaccurate.

Take the pineapple; many people believe it grows on a tree. Telling them it doesn’t, after you have had a discussion about pineapples isn’t going to convince someone. If they have always assumed it grows on a tree, unless you can show them, and they can see for themselves, they are very unlikely to believe it grows on a bush or on the ground. Much of what we believe about rape is assumption. Only when we set about to look at the facts do we learn the truth.

What JURIES is proposing
JURIES wants to create a DVD that would have agreed content that addresses the most commonly held myths and stereotypes. This would be played in open court prior to every case of rape and sexual violence. It would serve to educate jurors, barristers, judges, and court staff.

It would not be coaching, nor would it take away the need for convincing evidence. However, it would address the current bias that has seen our conviction rate drop to one of the lowest levels, whilst also seeing the reporting rates rise.

Our petition

“It happened to me. I didn’t fit the portrayed stereotype. It was my neighbour. Not guilty in court. Yet the impact on my life is far reaching”

This is just one of the comments from someone who has signed our petition about JURIES. Yet we have lots more, examples of comments from those whose cases jumped all the hurdles to get into court, only to be let down by the myths and stereotypes that so many people have.

We are lobbying MPs, government officials and public servants to make this happen and get our voices heard. However, we also need support for this campaign, we can’t do it alone. But what we want to make sure is that no-one ever has to face a jury that blames a victim, or won’t convict through ignorance or assumption.

Please sign our petition, which can be found here.

Follow on twitter at @UnderstandingSV

You can also read more about our campaign here.

FAQs can be found here.

Alison Boydell and Jill Saward, Founders of JURIES

 

 

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