Unearthing the realities of rape: Utilising Victorian newspaper reportage to fill in the contextual gaps
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This article examines the realities of rape and sexual offences and their treatment through the legal process by use of media reportage, Victorian and modern; using this to contextualise and so to challenge the official record. The starting point is an identification of what constitutes ‹best’ evidence for an exploration of rape and sexual offences – evidence that permits better insights into the impact of such offences on the individuals involved, as well as into the factors governing the ability of the criminal justice process to promote the conviction rate in rape cases. By using a comparative historical perspective, and using media presentations (especially newspaper reportage) this article shows the enduring nature of stereotypes which govern the decisions reached by legal personnel and by jurors – stereotypes which have, since the Victorian period, remained profoundly gendered in ways that are unhelpful to the ‹victims’.
Keywordsconviction levels gendered stereotypes headline rhetoric jury decisions legal prejudices newspaper reportage rape rape mythology as historical invention sexual offences Colonel Valentine Baker
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