Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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True "Lies" and False "Truths": Women, Rape and the Police

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posted on 2021-11-08, 19:58 authored by Jordan, Jan

The notion that women lie about rape is a prevalent belief with pervasive influence. This thesis comprises a series of studies aimed at elucidating understanding of the ways in which this belief affects police officers' responses to women who report rape. The thesis begins by examining the historical context within which rape came to be defined as a crime, and considers the impact of dominant assumptions regarding the 'nature' of women on the formation of rape laws. Factors affecting criminal justice system responses to women who report rape are identified, considering in particular the ways in which these have been influenced by views of women's inherent deceitfulness. Having established the ideological and socio-political framework, attention then shifts to a consideration of rape in contemporary New Zealand. The views of rape complainants regarding their experiences of reporting rape and sexual assault to the police are presented, highlighting the centrality of 'being believed'. Quantitative and qualitative data are presented from an analysis of police sexual assault investigation files and are used to highlight the factors affecting police officers' perceptions of complainants' credibility. The file analysis is complemented by material derived from interviews with sexual assault investigators, which explores further the issue of allegedly false rape complaints. The final study presented documents the experiences of a group of rape victims who largely conform to the police stereotype of the 'perfect victim'. In this chapter, women who were attacked by serial rapist Malcolm Rewa reflect on the ways in which they were treated by the police. Their accounts are useful in highlighting the potential for positive police-complainant relationships when the issue of the victim's credibility is not the dominant concern. Taken together, these studies provide a series of different perspectives on police responses to reports of rape. The results indicate that concerns about the victim's credibility continue to dominate reporting procedures, and that negative stereotypes concerning lying, vengeful women remain influential. Recent attempts by the police to improve women's experiences of rape investigations are acknowledged, but the overall conclusion suggests that the scope for positive change will remain limited while such negative stereotypes prevail.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

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Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Law


Neale, Jenny; Morris, Allison