After a much needed break, today I came back to media reporting of gendered violence to see how it was going and saw this. A perfect example of some of the most common tropes in reporting on rape and sexual assault trials.

To be clear, this trial is still underway and Kurtley Beale has the right to the presumption of innocence. Please keep in mind that any publication (including online comments) that pre-judges a guilty or not guilty verdict could be contempt of court and this could derail the trial. This post is not a comment about this specific case or trial and should not be taken as such. It is only using the headline to demonstrate common trope in reporting on gendered violence.

Rape is not ‘sex’

This man is not on trial for ‘sex’. Sex is something people do together when everyone involved is fully able and eager to consent.

Rape is a choice made by a rapist, who has no regard for the consent or humanity of the person they choose to rape.

Consent lives in the great divide between rape and sex. Consent is a vibrant understanding of sex as something you do with a person not to an object. Consent is about shared joy and mutual desire and clear communication.

Conflating rape and sex erases consent. It implies the great divide is in fact a thin and blurred line, that consent is too difficult to understand and too much to expect.

It isn’t.

Unattributed quotes from lawyers

This is SO common in reporting on rape and sexual assault trials.

Editors slap a salacious quote from a defence lawyer’s into a headline  as if it’s evidence.

It’s not.

Lawyers defending rapists routinely lean into rape myths in their questions. This is not just my observations of rape trials, BOCSAR research from last year found lawyers “regularly relied” on rape myths in trials.

Lawyers rely on rape myths to defend rapists for one simple reason: it works. Juries believe that women lie and lead men on and then make false allegations. These myths are so deeply embedded that they crawl into headlines every damn day and no one even notices.

We should be noticing. 

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Jane Gilmore’s books Fixed It: Violence and the media’s representation of women, Fairy Tale Princesses Will Kill Your Children, and Teaching Consent: Real Voices from the Consent Classroom are deep dives into all these issues. All these books are are available from www.JaneGilmore.com/books 

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