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Court observations of English rape and sexual assault trials: an intersectional analysis

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posted on 2023-08-30, 19:06 authored by Ellen Daly
This PhD explored the role of rape myths and cultural narratives in serious sexual offences trials in England. The relationship between rape myths and cultural narratives that reflect structural oppressions such as sexism, classism, and ableism, is important to examine in the context of trials because attrition evidence shows that minoritised and marginalised women face particular barriers when accessing criminal justice. Court observations were used because they provide insight into the overarching trial narrative that is unaffected by participant recall (as would be the case in using interview and survey methods). Data were analysed using an intersectional feminist frame informed by critical discourse analysis, both of which focus on power structures. The key findings were that rape myths continue to permeate trial narratives, that they are re/produced by oppressive cultural narratives, and that these work together to undermine the credibility of victim-survivors. Structural inequalities and systems of oppression are reflected, often subtly, in the narratives deployed by barristers at trial and thus the credibility of victimsurvivors is undermined in relation to how they are perceived and portrayed. These findings show that it is important to look beyond rape myths as an explanation for poor justice outcomes for victim-survivors of sexual violence and that structural inequalities and systems of oppression should be properly considered in future research, policy, and reform.



Anglia Ruskin University

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