Helen Reece, reader in law at LSE recently published “Rape Myths: Is Elite Opinion Right and Popular Opinion Wrong?” in the Oxford Journal of Legal Studies (H Reece, ‘Rape Myths: Is Elite Opinion Right and Popular Opinion Wrong?’ (2013) Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, online: <http://ojls.oxfordjournals.org/citmgr?gca=oxjlsj;gqt006v1> First published online: March 25, 2013. Here the Guardian provided a summary of the arguments. Here is the abstract, but do click through for the article.
England and Wales have recently experienced wide-ranging rape law reform and a galloping rape reporting rate but no comparable increase in rape convictions, leading many erstwhile law reformers to turn attention to attitudes. In essence, their argument is that reform has proved relatively ineffective because a range of agents hold ‘rape myths’. Despite the broad consensus that this approach has attracted, I argue that the regressiveness of current public attitudes towards rape has been overstated. The claim that rape myths are widespread may be challenged on three grounds: first, some of the attitudes are not myths; secondly, not all the myths are about rape; thirdly, there is little evidence that the rape myths are widespread. To a troubling extent, we are in the process of creating myths about myths. This process functions to close down, not open up, the possibilities of a productive public conversation about important and at times vexed questions.
Over at Inherently Human (Critical Perspectives on Law, Gender & Sexuality), Dr. Nikki Godden of Newcastle has an interesting and highly critical response. Here’s a tiny piece – you really should have a look at the whole thing:
Reece draws statistical comparisons to highlight high attrition and low conviction rates for some other serious offences, such as burglary, suggesting that there is no justification for a focus on rape (p 5). However, pointing to other crimes which have equally poor attrition and conviction rates does not mean that there is no problem to be addressed, although it does raise the question: why should time, energy, and resources be spent on attempting to improve the criminal justice response to rape in particular? While Reece anticipates and addresses answers to this question, she fails to adequately challenge the strongest and most significant reason for focusing on rape – the point that it is a gendered harm.
Inherently Human was created in 2010 by postgraduate students working in the research cluster Gender & Law at Durham (GLAD), located in the School of Law, Durham University, UK.