Everyday Victim Blaming

challenging institutional disbelief around domestic & sexual violence and abuse

The Ched Evans case puts rape reform back 30 years by @rapecrisisscot

We were shocked and horrified to see the use of such blatantly prejudicial sexual history evidence in the Ched Evans retrial.

Like Scotland, England and Wales has legislation in place to restrict defence lawyers using evidence of a rape complainer's sexual history; however as with Scotland, the English/Welsh legislation does not ban the use of this type of evidence.  Judges have the power to make exceptions to these restrictions to allow sexual history evidence to be used.  In this case, the judge allowed evidence to be led from two men about sexual relations with the complainer before and after the alleged rape by Ched Evans.  Sexual history evidence with someone other than the accused would normally be unlikely to be admitted but in this case the justification appears to be that the complainer had allegedly used similar language with both these men during sex - "fuck me harder" - as Ched Evans claims she did during the rape he had been convicted of.  Neither of the initial statements of these two men mentioned these supposed similarities, which only appeared in subsequent statements following Ched Evan's conviction and the offer of a £50,000 reward for information by Evan's team.

It is unimaginable what this experience was like for the complainer in the case.  And unsurprisingly, it worked.  The jury acquitted.  The introduction of this 'evidence' was the key difference between the first trial where Ched Evans was convicted, and the retrial where he was acquitted.  Defence lawyers use sexual evidence because they know it works.

We have long had very strong concerns about the use of sexual history or sexual character evidence being used to discredit rape complainers. This kind of evidence  draws on pervasive  and outmoded rape myths and is often designed to undermine and challenge the credibility of a complainer by suggesting she is the 'type of woman' who is promiscuous, has different sexual partners and is 'up for sex' indiscriminately.  It can be used to cast doubts on the truthfulness of her account and, crucially raise doubt about her lack of consent. It diverts attention away from important issues in the trial such as the question of the guilt or otherwise of the accused by focusing on past sexual behaviour of the complainer. Like Scotland and England/Wales, many other legal jurisdictions around the world recognise this problematic potential of sexual history evidence and have introduced restrictions around its use - but no jurisdiction imposes a total ban. The use of sexual history evidence with someone other than the accused is considered particularly problematic, with concerns about the probative value of this kind of evidence and its high potential for diverting the jury from key issues in the trial.  ....


The full text of this article is available here. 


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