Sexual Abuse Expert Witnesses On How Jurors React

Sexual abuse expert witnesses Professor Vanessa Munro of The University of Nottingham and Dr Louise Ellison of the University of Leeds found jurors have a poor understanding of the various ways in which women might react when raped, the levels and types of injuries they might sustain and the different behaviors they might display in the witness box.

The researchers, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, set up mock court cases to examine how jurors reacted to different pieces of evidence and how these were then discussed in the jury room.

In particular, they found that many jurors expect rape victims to:

* Fight back against their attacker;
* Sustain serious physical injuries;
* Report the offence immediately;
* Appear tearful and distressed when recounting their experiences in court.

In reality, many rape victims offer no physical resistance, many suffer no injury, many delay reporting rapes for significant periods and many react to rape by exhibiting extreme calm – often as a strategy to help them cope. The research shows that each of these reactions, in challenging the assumptions of jurors, can work against rape complainants when they appear in court – and may be one factor which contributes to the low conviction rate of 6.5 per cent in reported rape cases.

Excerpted from