4 Nov 2014

Rape culture studies get $1m grant

7:27 pm on 4 November 2014

The country's top research fund has granted more than $1 million to two projects investigating rape culture.

Marchers gather at Britomart at the start of the Auckland demonstration.

Marchers gather at Britomart at the start of an Auckland demonstration against rape culture. Photo: RNZ

Three academics from Victoria University - a criminologist, a lawyer and a psychologist - have been awarded the money by the Marsden Fund for two three-year research projects.

They are among 101 awards totalling almost $56 million.

Associate professor Jan Jordan was awarded $610,000 for her project to investigate why, despite so much talking and rhetoric around rape reform over the past 40 years, it was so hard to get substantive change.

She said her project was in two parts.

"One is actually looking at up-to-date review of police files on rape to look at some of the factors involved as to why cases do not continue through the justice system."

"The second part is getting more at the socio-cultural side, and that's really wanting to analyse changing depiction's of women and rape in the media to actually look at how our forms of social media still portray women dominantly as sexual objects."

Associate professors Elisabeth McDonald and Ann Weatherall were also awarded $540,000 to examine attitudes to sexual complainants in the courtroom and how they were treated by lawyers and judges.

The researchers are also to look at the extent to which myths about rape influences that process.

Last week police decided not to charge a group of west Auckland youths who called themselves "Roastbusters" and posted details online about getting girls drunk and having sex with them.

Mental health specialists called for a nation-wide discussion on sexual consent in the wake the investigation into the sex ring.

An online petition demanded a review of the police decision.

Decision applauded

Rape Crisis national spokesperson Andrea Black said the organisation welcomed the Marsden Fund's decision, and that it was a fantastic breakthrough.

"Research nationally for the justice system and the cases that go through to the Police Complaints (Authority) to be investigated is pretty limited." she said.

"In fact, the whole sexual violence sector research is limited, so it's a huge step forward for us."

Ms Black said she hoped the research would produce recommendations which would bring positive change for the community.

Marsden Fund judge Professor Linda Tuhiwai Smith said the decision to award funding for Prof Jordan's project was unusual but reflected the strength of the application and that she had submitted an outstanding application.

"This study really gets into 'where do things not happen for victims of rape' and one of the areas that they look at is really around the role that police have, potentially as gatekeepers," Prof Smith said.

"So part of this study, which is what it makes it worthy, was really their ... examination of gatekeepers in that process."

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