MEDIA REPORTAGE OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT: THE (IN)CREDIBLE COMPLAINANT

Keziah Judd, Patricia Easteal

Abstract


Studies of court and conciliation decisions about credible complainants and legitimate sexual harassment. In determining what is reasonable and indeed in assessing whether behavior was sexual and unwelcome and resulted in humiliation, it is often the complainant’s identity, history and behaviour that are scrutinised and evaluated by conciliators and judicial officers. Youth can enhance credibility if the alleged harasser is older. Also, credible victims fight back, report immediately, are consistent in their evidence, are able to particularise and testify either in a non- aggressive and not too ‘smart’ manner or make an argumentative presentation coupled with confidence. Judicial commentary about the complainant’s relationships, dress and attitudes to sexuality is a chilling echo of Catharine MacKinnon’s 1979 observation that sexual harassment was often dismissed as “trivial, isolated, and ‘personal,’ or as universal ‘natural’ or ‘biological’ behaviours…
 

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