Justice for Rape Victim-Survivors
: Exploring the Need for a Court-Based Intervention to Address Jurors' Rape Myth Acceptance, and Other Measures, in the Criminal Justice System

  • Lara Hudspith

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Background: The criminal justice response to sexual violence has been highly criticised, given both the disparity between the number of sexual offences reported and the number of cases that result in convictions, and victim-survivors’ negative experiences of engaging with the criminal justice system (CJS), culminating in re-victimisation. Although there are many factors that contribute to these two issues, it can be argued that CJS stakeholders’ beliefs in rape myths are a significant contributor. Indeed, rape myths can affect decisions made by stakeholders at each stage of the process, as well as victim-survivors’ experiences of interacting with them. Whilst CJS agents have been interviewed separately about justice in rape and sexual offence cases, no prior research has sought to capture how problematic varied stakeholders perceive rape myths to be in the context of trial fairness and outcomes.

Aims: The principal aims of the project were to examine the potential benefits of developing
an educational intervention for jurors which addresses rape myths, and to provide evidencebased recommendations for the development and implementation of such an intervention. Secondary aims were to capture and assess CJS stakeholders’ experiences of rape and sexual offence trials and develop evidence-based recommendations with regards to how processes might be reformed.

Methods: Two systematic reviews were conducted which synthesised the existing literature base regarding rape myth interventions and critically appraised the reviewed studies. Four semi-structured interview studies were also conducted, with victim-survivors (N = 9), independent sexual violence advisors (ISVAs) (N = 10), barristers (N = 9), and former jurors (N = 10). The interviews focused upon stakeholders’ views surrounding jurors’ beliefs in rape myths, and how this potential issue could be addressed. Stakeholder views of the wider context of rape and sexual offence trials were also explored to determine how the issue of jurors’ beliefs in rape myths is situated. Interview data collected were analysed using Reflexive Thematic Analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006, 2017).

Findings: The systematic reviews showed that existing rape myth interventions can successfully reduce individuals’ beliefs in and reliance upon rape myths. The interview studies demonstrated that various CJS stakeholders are in favour an intervention being developed and implemented, though they highlighted several factors that should be considering during such a process. With regards to CJS stakeholders’ experiences and views of rape and sexual offence trials more generally, ISVAs and victim-survivors reported that victim-survivors had largely negative experiences. They felt that reforms could be implemented to redress the imbalance of what they perceived to be a defendant focussed CJS. In contrast, barristers felt as though the CJS was unbalanced in favour of complainants. Jurors reported several challenges associated with their experience of jury service. All interview groups indicated that to address jurors’ beliefs in rape myths, and problems faced by victim-survivors during the criminal justice process, it might be appropriate to look beyond the current adversarial system and inherent processes, rather than advocating reform of this system.

Conclusions: A rape myth intervention for jurors should be developed and implemented. Recommendations are made regarding how this can be done effectively
Date of Award13 Dec 2022
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorRachel Armitage (Main Supervisor)

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