The most persistent rape myth? A qualitative study of ‘delay’ in complaint in Victorian rape trials

Publication Name

Current Issues in Criminal Justice


One of the oldest myths to confound the achievement of justice for victims of sexual violence is that ‘genuine’ rape victims complain immediately, loudly and officially. Dismantling this myth—or at least banishing it from the court room—has been a high priority of the modern era of rape/sexual assault law reform. How successful has this attempt been? This article reports on the initial findings of a transcript analysis study of more than 30 rape trials finalised in the County Court of Victoria between 2013 and 2020. We discuss the multiple variations on ‘delay’ that continue to feature prominently in the cross-examination of complainants in rape trials. We also examine the operation of s 52 of the Jury Directions Act 2015 (Vic) which provides for a mandatory direction if, at any point during the trial, the judge considers that there is evidence suggestive of delay. Ostensibly one of the strongest corrective mechanisms currently operating in sexual offence trials in Australia, we discuss the unevenness of s 52’s operation, and consider the implications for reliance on jury directions more generally.

Open Access Status

This publication is not available as open access

Funding Number


Funding Sponsor

Australian Research Council



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