Seen But Not Heard? Parallels and Dissonances in the Treatment of Rape Narratives across the Asylum and Criminal Justice Contexts

Sharon Cowan, Helen Baillot, Vanessa Munro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

A significant proportion of women seeking refugee status in the United Kingdom will claim to have been raped in their country of origin. Even where this is not the sole basis of an asylum claim, it may be relevant to its determination. While criminal justice responses to rape have been the subject of extensive academic criticism and legislative reform, the processes of disclosure and credibility assessment in the asylum context have received little attention. This article explores possible parallels and dissonances in the treatment of rape across the asylum and criminal justice contexts, drawing in particular on the findings of a 2007 pilot study. It considers how problems such as the under-reporting of rape, the inability of the victim to 'tell the story' in her own words, a hostile adjudicative environment, and the tendency to regard factors such as late disclosure, narrative inconsistency, and calm demeanour with suspicion may be replicated and compounded in asylum cases. It also acknowledges the complex intersection of race, gender, culture, and nationality in this context.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)195-219
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Law and Society
Volume36
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2009

Keywords

  • asylum
  • rape
  • credibility

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