A high number of rape acquittals!

Virginia Hausseger’s summary of what happens in a rape trial was accurate except when she says that the victim will be questioned about her sexual history and number of partners and that the jurors will therefore draw from that a view about her morality.

That line of questioning has been banned for many years. Questions about the complainant’s sexual history are tightly controlled in courts now and are only allowed where they relate to her relationship (if any) with this accused or the incident in question and judges keep a sharp ear on the questions to make sure they remain strictly relevant.

The law has moved with the times to that extent. I don’t agree, however, that the lack of guilty verdicts reflects any other inherent difficulties in the criminal justice system. As Haussegger said, there are rarely eye witnesses to sexual assaults and so, necessarily, the evidence is word against word.

There are countless motives for lying about sexual assault. I can think of three family court proceedings, being caught having sex with a man not one’s husband, having sex with the husband of one’s best friend.

Rape is a shocking, dreadful thing to happen to a woman and as a woman myself I am only too conscious of this, but it does not mean all allegations are prima facie true.
Jennifer Saunders, Canberra (letter to Canberra Times)

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