AuthorConstance Backhouse
Ecases proledhereagainst thebackdropoft helargercol
lection demonstrates that injustice was deeply rooted in sexua l assault law.
Mary Ann Burtons case displayed misogynist ica ssumptions about the
venality of women as well as class bias that in fected police investigations,
doctors testimony and defence crossexaminations Women who made
complaints of sexual violation were stereotyped as incredible. Skepticism
and disbelief interspersed al l their interactions with the legal system. It was
one thing for the cri minal law to demand that the Crown prove its case “be
quiteanotherthentoti lttheplayingeldstillfurt heragainstthevictimsof
response Dontyou bully mei ndicates that she knew the treatment to
beu nfairand that hersenseof justice wouldhave required ad ramatic
refashioning of the tria l.
Police and physicians should have been instructed to conduct full inves
tigations free from sexism a nd class discrimi nation. Criminal law should
have been enforced to ensure that all women were protected from sex ual
assault, regardless of their class, fami ly history, sexual past, use of alcohol,
or lifestyle. Rules of professional ethics should have restrained lawyers from
andjuriesJust asithaslongbe enrecognized thatcounsel mustnottellju
rors that they can disregard t he law, neither should they have been allowed
to suggest that some women were not worthy of legal protection.

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