The `Ideal' Victim v Successful Rape Complainants: Not What You Might Expect [Book Review]

Feminist Legal Studies 10 (2):131-148 (2002)
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This article proposes that feminist legal critics need to be able to explain how some rape cases succeed in securing convictions. The means by which rape cases are routinely disqualified in the criminal justice system have received widespread attention. It is well established in feminist legal critique that female complainants are discredited if they fail to conform to an archaic stereotype of the genuine or ‘real’ rape victim. This victim is not only morally and sexually virtuous she is also cautious, unprovocative, and consistent. Defence tactics for discrediting rape testimony involve exposing the complainant's alleged failure to comply with the sexual and behavioural standards of the normative victim.This understanding of how rape complain(an)ts are disqualified is not predictive, however, of the complainants whose cases succeed in securing convictions. This article reviews some successful Australian rape cases and considers the ways in which they disturb feminist understandings of how rape complaints are discredited in the criminal justice system. It proposes that recent research analysing the discourse of rape trials provides a way of explaining the apparent discrepancies between the ‘ideal’ rape victim and successful complainants



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