Victim blaming in sexual assault cases 'appalling', Crown Prosecutor says amid damning statistics

Source: 1News

An Auckland Crown Prosecutor is "appalled" a photo of a woman's bra was held up in court by a defence lawyer to say the victim was out looking for sexual relations the evening of the incident.

In a closing statement, a defence lawyer in a recent sexual crime case in Auckland held up a photo of the bra a woman wore the night of the incident as a way to insinuate blame on the victim because of how she dressed.

Meredith Connell Crown Prosecuter Kirsten Lummis told TVNZ1's Breakfast today victim blaming is a serious problem in New Zealand that needs addressing.

In 2018, only 51 per cent of the 5300 adults charged with sexual assault and related offences were convicted.

Ms Lummis said, while there slow changes coming through that were aimed at changing the statistics, including a law reform and police treatment of victims, it had been a problem for many years.

"We're still coming up against the rape myths, we're still coming up against victim blaming and that's the problem that we have to overcome.

"We've got a very recent example out of our office of a defence lawyer holding up a photograph of the bra that the woman had been wearing and saying "look she got dressed that morning intending on going out and having sexual relations that evening", and the bra was a very floral, standard, everyday piece of underwear; and why that should even attract comment in 2019 - it's appalling."

Unfortunately in the case, the judge did not get up and comment back after the point was made in the closing statement of the defence lawyer, Ms Lummis said.

With the rise of dating apps, including Tinder, there was also an attitude of victims "getting what they deserve" for being sexually adventurous, Ms Lummis said. "Moral judging is rife in this area, victim blaming is rife."

As well, there is a problem with many cases involving intoxication by alcohol and drugs.

One of Ms Lummin's cases 10 years ago came back as a not guilty verdict, despite CCTV footage of a woman sitting and vomiting in a gutter before being picked up by strangers and taken back to their apartment and sexually assaulted in various ways.

"It's one that sticks with me as being particularly unfair," she said.