Rape Myths as Barriers to Fair Trial Process: Comparing adult rape trials with those in the Aotearoa Sexual Violence Court Pilot. By Elisabeth McDonald

AuthorScott Optican
PositionAssociate Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Auckland
Book Review
Review of Elisabeth McDonald, Rape Myths
as Barriers to Fair Trial Process: Comparing
Adult Rape Trials with those in the Aotearoa
Sexual Violence Court Pilot
(Canterbury University Press, 2020)
R  S O*
Professor Eli sabeth McDon ald (Univers ity of Canter bury School of L aw) has
long been New Zea land’s premiere rese archer in — a nd advocate for — the refor m
of crimi nal trial proces ses involvi ng adult vict ims of sexual violence. Her ne w and
import ant book from Ca nterbur y University P ress, Rape Myths a s Barriers to Fai r
Trial Process: Comp aring adult rape tr ials with those in t he Aotearoa Sexual Vi olence
Court Pilot, is undoubted ly McDonald’s most sign if‌icant contribut ion to those areas
of advocacy an d scholarship.
The book summ arises f‌i ndings from 4 ye ars of resear ch analys ing tria l processes
in 30 adult r ape cases (2010–2015) where the defence w as consent. It then compar es
those wit h 10 cases (2017–2018) from the S exual Violence Cour t Pilot — a “judicia lly-
led initi ative” whose goa l is “to improve t he court ex perience for par ticipants i n
sexual oence t rials …”.1
As describ ed by McDonald herself:2
… the motivat ion for the researc h was to invest igate the
possible reas ons why adult rap e complaina nts’ report ed
experience of g iving evid ence has not alte red over many year s,
1 Elisab eth McDona ld Rape Myths as Ba rriers to Fair Tria l Process: Com paring adult r ape trials
with those in th e Aotearoa Sexual Viol ence Court Pilot(Cant erbury University Press, Canterbury,
2020) at 21 [Rape Myths]. A di gital edit ion of the book is freely av ailable from th e University of
Canterbu ry Resear ch Repositor y and can be acce ssed at .
Support for McDona ld’s work was prov ided by the Mar sden Fund, t he New Zeala nd Law
Foundation , the Borrin Fou ndation and the Un iversity of Ca nterbury Sch ool of Law. Universit y
of Waikat o law lectur er Paulet te Benton-G reig — togeth er with rese archers Sa ndra Dick son and
Rachel Sou ness — contribu ted to the boo k’s research a nd writin g. McDonald a lso acknowle dges
numerous memb ers of the judi ciary ( partic ularly t he heads of var ious court s), Minis try of
Justice emp loyees and others who help ed her team by givi ng access to the neces sary case f‌ile
material a nd generously provided their time a nd expertise.
2 Rape Myths, above n 1, at 39 .
* Associat e Professor, Facul ty of Law, Universi ty of Auckla nd.

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