What is it about?

Jurors view rape complainants who appear distressed as more credible than those who appear unemotional. This is problematic as many complainants do not show much emotion when giving evidence for a variety of reasons including trauma. A complainant’s emotional state also does not provide reliable information to evaluate their credibility. In this research, we examine whether providing (mock) jurors with trauma education, to explain how trauma affects the way rape complainants’ express emotion, helps jurors to make more accurate decisions about complainant credibility.

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Why is it important?

Rape cases have disproportionately low conviction rates compared to other types of crime. One key barrier to convictions is that jurors are misled by inaccurate stereotypes, like the complainant’s emotions, in evaluating the complainant’s credibility in criminal trials. Finding effective methods to reduce jurors’ use of inaccurate stereotypes to make decisions in rape cases is key to ensuring that criminal trials are fair to all parties involved. It is critical that any intervention is evaluated before it is deployed in the criminal justice system, to ensure that it does not have any unintended effects.

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This page is a summary of: The effect of trauma education judicial instructions on decisions about complainant credibility in rape trials., Psychology Public Policy and Law, May 2022, American Psychological Association (APA),
DOI: 10.1037/law0000353.
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