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The Word of a Woman: the Police and Rape

18 October 2004 Public Affairs

The Word of a Woman: the Police and Rape

Women who have been raped may often have to prove their allegation before the Police will take them seriously, says Victoria University criminologist and Senior Lecturer Dr Jan Jordan in a new book.

Dr Jordan's book, The Word of a Woman? Police, Rape and Belief, will be launched on Tuesday October 19 in the University's Hunter Common Room. Speakers will include University Chancellor Rosemary Barrington and Acting Commissioner of Police, Steve Long.

In her book, Dr Jordan examines the treatment of women when they make a complaint of rape, having interviewed both detectives and victims and survivors of rape as well as examining police investigation files.

"The central question I've asked is why, when a woman complains of rape, is her word questioned more intensely than the word of those who complain of other offences? I believe the answer lies in the historically prejudiced views of women as inherently deceptive, natural born liars and malicious accusers.

"The legacy of such views, I argue, forms the backdrop for societal attitudes of disbelief regarding sexual assault victimisation, views that will then continue to be reflected by the Police until they gain a fuller understanding of the dynamics surrounding the crime of rape."

Dr Jordan says her research suggests many victims of rape, particularly those who know their attacker, may often have to convince the Police of the genuineness of their allegations before a full investigation is carried out.

"I've made a strong case for greater Police specialisation to ensure detectives involved in such cases are sensitive to such aspects, for example, as how trauma impacts on victim behaviour and ways of presenting, and how the legacy of mistrust of a women's word has become part of Police culture and needs conscious challenging.

"I believe becoming more victim-centred and attuned will not detract from Police performance and results but rather will enhance victims' trust and co-operation with the Police and help to ensure more successful law enforcement."

Media are invited to the launch at 5.30pm in the Hunter Common Room, Level 2, Hunter Building, Kelburn Parade.


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