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Balancing the Scales: Rape, Law Reform and Australian Culture

NCJ Number
Patricia Easteal
Date Published
249 pages
These 14 papers provide an overview of rape law reform in Australia, its variation across jurisdictions, and the ways it has succeeded or failed in balancing the rights of the defendant and those of the victim.
The first paper explores several aspects of Australian culture, including language, the incidence of sexual assault, the gendered reality of this culture, and the role of this gendered reality in persistent myths that sexual assault victims are to blame for their victimization. Additional papers consider law reforms intended to shift from a monolithic crime of rape to a set of graded offenses of sexual assault, the role of a positive consent standard as a way of balancing the scales for women, and the rule of recent or fresh complaint in assessing victim credibility. Further papers focus on the warning by judges to juries regarding the need for corroborating evidence, evidence regarding the victim’s sexual past, the use of a history of mental health problems as a strategy to discredit the victim, marital rape, and judicial discretion and judicial filtering of reform. Other chapters present a practitioner’s perspective on sexual assault trials, factors that influence judicial reasoning, appellate court decisions relating to factors argued to demonstrate judicial sexism, and current gaps in rape law reform and the reasons for these gaps. Footnotes, figures, index, and list of 166 readings