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How rape myths and unconscious biases prejudice the judicial system against women

It is well documented that women who are sexually assaulted, or raped, rarely report the crime to the police. The US charity, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, has shown that one in six women in the US has been the victim of rape or attempted rape, yet two in three rapes go unreported. For women under 25, that figure drops to one in five.

In the UK, these figures are similarly bleak. The Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales notes that, in the year to December 2021, the police recorded 67,125 rape offences. And yet the charity Rape Crisis says five in six women who are raped don’t report it. Many factors feed into why women do not report such crimes. The primary reason, however, is the lack of trust many express in the policing and legal systems. My research looks at how social inequalities and implicit biases impact legal decisions. Even when jury members and police officers believe they are acting without prejudice, which is more overt and forceful, they cannot avoid their implicit biases.

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