Lucy Girdlestone

History - BA (Hons)

I am a history student who has just completed my third year of my undergraduate degree. Throughout my course I took interest in gender history and exposing the social inequalities towards women within today's society. My passion for this stemmed from my desire to pursue a career as a solicitor. I hope to create an awareness around the injustices that remain within a system created to protect us and by pursuing a career in law I will gain further understanding of the inequalities within the justice system. The modules studied during my degree have allowed me to explore areas of history that would have remained obscure to me had I not chosen history. It is this same thought process I wish to apply to my future academic and social pursuits by taking an obscure topic and exposing it.

My dissertation topic focussed on the impact that rape documentaries of the 1980s and 1990s have had on laws, attitudes and practices within Britain. In the 1980s and 1990s, several ground-breaking documentaries about rape hit Britain’s screens and led to a large degree of changes to laws, attitudes and practices. These documentaries were produced with the intention of exposing the flawed criminal justice system to the public in the hope that it would highlight the need for change in both legal practices and social attitudes. They revealed the shocking treatment rape survivors experienced at the hands of the very system meant to protect and provide justice. The documentaries actively contributed to changes that are significant and remembered to this day, but are things really that different now compared to when the first documentary aired? An in-depth analysis of the current legal practices and poor experiences rape survivors face within society suggests that not enough has changed.

This study conveys that in spite of the significant changes that occurred as a result of these documentaries, and the low conviction rate shows there are just as many flaws within Britain’s criminal justice system as there was when the documentaries aired. Thus, this thesis analyses the degree to which laws, attitudes and practices changed following the documentaries whilst examining how the criminal justice system continues to punish rape survivors whilst rapists walk free. In a time when the conviction rate continues to get lower, has enough really changed?