We recognise that judicial reform is one aspect of addressing sexual violence and only approximately 15% of victims of sexual violence report to the police. Our ultimate aim is to prevent sexual violence in the first place. We are involved in lots of campaigning work, JURIES is one of them. We want to see wide cultural and attitudinal change.
Wouldn’t this be prejudicial and undermine due process?
No. Our culture is deeply prejudicial towards victims and survivors of sexual violence and our campaign seeks to address this. We cannot really blame people for believing in the myths and stereotypes we want to see covered as our media and popular culture perpetuate such myths and stereotypes. Without being exposed to material that counters such biased attitudes, these beliefs will remain entrenched.
This video by Nina Burrowes is recommended viewing:
Isn’t this biased?
No, because our proposal is that juries receive an overview of rape myths and stereotypes which are non-case specific before any evidence is heard. Judges already address case specific ones in their summings up at the end of a trial.
What about male victims?
Myths and stereotypes also affect male victims of sexual violence and we are proposing that they are addressed.
What about false allegations?
False allegations are given a disproportionate amount of public discourse when in reality, they are extremely rare. We remind people that an acquittal does not mean that the victim was lying; it means that the jury was, in theory, unable to convict beyond reasonable doubt. However, given how deeply rooted myths and stereotypes are, research has shown how in mock jury trials, it is not necessarily the lack of evidence that lead to acquittals but the attitude towards the evidence (Temkin and Krahe 2008).
Why is all the research on mock juries and not real ones?
The Contempt of Court Act 1981 prohibits research with ‘real’ juries in England and Wales. However there is a body of research into mock juries and further studies which conclude that myths and stereotypes affect jury verdicts. The research is listed on our campaign brief which can be read here.
Temkin, J. and Krahe, B. Sexual Assault and the Justice Gap 2008, Oxford, Hart Publishing