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

25 Pages Posted: 27 May 2009

See all articles by Helen Baillot

Helen Baillot

Independent

Sharon Cowan

University of Edinburgh - School of Law

Vanessa E. Munro

University of Nottingham

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 underreporting 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.

Suggested Citation

Baillot, Helen and Cowan, Sharon and Munro, Vanessa E., Seen But Not Heard? Parallels and Dissonances in the Treatment of Rape Narratives Across the Asylum and Criminal Justice Contexts. Journal of Law and Society, Vol. 36, Issue 2, pp. 195-219, June 2009. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1407753 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-6478.2009.00463.x

Helen Baillot (Contact Author)

Independent ( email )

No Address Available

Sharon Cowan

University of Edinburgh - School of Law ( email )

Old College
South Bridge
Edinburgh, EH8 9YL
United Kingdom

Vanessa E. Munro

University of Nottingham ( email )

University Park
Nottingham, NG8 1BB
United Kingdom

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