Everyday Victim Blaming

challenging institutional disbelief around domestic & sexual violence and abuse

We cannot allow the courts to judge rape by sexual history by @VeraBaird

The footballer Ched Evans had much to say following his rape acquittal, and the weekend newspapers gave him a platform to say it. Now rape campaigners must come to terms with the legacy of his case. By clearing the way for two men to tell the jury they’d had sex with the complainant, the court of appeal effectively converted his earlier conviction into an acquittal. Some lawyers say this was a rare case and doubt that, as a precedent, it will affect many future cases. But other lawyers – and I am one of them – fear that rape trials could become inquisitions into the complainant’s sex life.

We seem to be returning to a mindset and practices we thought were confined to history. In seeking – as we now must – to find a new way forward, it’s worth recalling how we reached this point.

The fear of a complainant being confronted with evidence relating to sex with other men is, and has always been, a huge deterrent to reporting rape. In 1976 judges were given powers to prevent defence lawyers using that tactic, but the discretion they enjoyed was wide, unregulated and infrequently used. So a rape defendant could bring Mr B and Mr C to testify that the complainant had had consensual sex with them. The argument would run, she consented to me as well because she’ll have sex with anyone. The two arguments – she’s a tart and you can’t believe a word she says – were what women, not surprisingly, feared. These were the “twin myths” that flowed from the use of previous sexual history. ...

 

This article was originally published by the Guardian on 17.10.16. You can find the full text of the article here.

Inspired by our participation with the Write to End Violence Against Women awards organised by Zero Tolerance, we are now collecting examples of good journalism about domestic and sexual violence and abuse to make it clear that it is possible to write about DSVA without resorting to myths, misrepresentations, minimisation and victim blaming.

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