For the victim, trials can be a second ordeal

The Independent, Saturday February 2013

Frances Andrade is believed to have killed herself during the trial of Michael Brewer

No woman makes an allegation of rape or sexual assault lightly. Despite changes in the law to protect complainants, every woman knows that a trial is likely to be a gruelling experience. Victims who give evidence often feel they’ve undergone a second ordeal without sufficient support from the criminal justice system.

One of the reasons for this is that defence lawyers try to destroy the complainant’s credibility in a way that rarely happens in other types of trials. Frances Andrade, who is believed to have killed herself during the trial of Michael Brewer, described her treatment by his barrister as “hugely insulting”.

No one is suggesting that men accused of rape are not entitled to a defence, but it is too often based on outdated sexist assumptions. One of these is the myth, unsupported by research, that there’s a high level of false accusations.

This myth is evident in cases like that of the footballer Ched Evans, whose victim was abused on Twitter after he was convicted and sent to prison for five years.

Sadly, it sometimes feels as though disbelief of victims is reflexive. And the courts still don’t give enough thought to the devastating impact on women who find themselves victimised twice over.


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