There’s been a concerted effort to modernise rape law in Australia across the last 40 years. Changes have been evidence-based -- a rare thing for criminal law reform -- to reject common, victim-blaming myths previously embedded in common law.
But while legislation has changed, not all lawyers have. Evoking rape myths is still standard courtroom practice.
There is a paradox here. Lawmakers have gone to considerable lengths to “bust” certain rape myths, from what a “real rape” looks like, what a “genuine victim” does, to attitudes and assumptions that jurors and judges should not bring to rape trials. And yet, complainants are still being asked questions that effectively invite jurors to bring exactly those myths and stereotypes to their decision-making.