Dateline: January, 2007, Issue 5

Do women jurors lean toward the prosecution or defense in rape trials?

In consent-defense rape cases, a complainant's status as a victim is at issue: Is she a victim of rape, or did she consent to sex? Certain complainants are more likely to be seen as rape victims, and certain jurors are more likely to see them that way.

Women with certain attributes are more likely to be accorded rape victim status. Christie (1986) reports that a woman most readily accorded rape victim status has 5 attributes:

Some jurors are more willing than others to accord complainants rape victim status. Batchelder et al. (2004) reports that female jurors are more likely than male jurors to disbelieve female complainants, and so acquit defendants in greater numbers. Female jurors also typically establish themselves as the primary vocalists during deliberations, and sway male jurors who initially intend to vote guilty to vote not guilty.

Consent-defense rape cases hinge on having jurors accord rape victim status to complainants, and female jurors are less likely to believe that complainants have the necessary attributes of rape victims.

Source Christie, N. (1986). The ideal victim. In E. Fattah (Ed.), From crime policy to victim policy: Reorienting the criminal justice system (pp. 17-30). New York: St. Martin's Press.

Source Batchelder, J. S., Koski, D. D., & Byxbe, F. R. (2004). Women's hostility toward women in rape trials: Testing the intra-female gender hostility thesis. American Journal of Criminal Justice, 28, pp. 181-200.