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Crime writers condemn Staunch Prize after organisers suggest thrillers could ‘bias jurors’

In the UK, crime writers have condemned the organisers of the Staunch Prize—awarded to thrillers without violence against women—for claiming the genre could bias jurors, reports the Guardian.

The Staunch Book Prize, which launched in early 2018 for the best thriller novel in which no woman is beaten, stalked, sexually exploited, raped or murdered, has come under attack from writers after it claimed that crime fiction could bias jurors in rape trials. On its website, the prize referred to a ‘growing body of research’ that ‘finds that “rape myth” beliefs feed into bias which results in jurors being reluctant to convict “ordinary” men accused of rape as they don’t fit the idea of a rapist they’ve internalised through the stories and images they’ve received through popular culture’. The prize adds: ‘Fictional stereotypes of night stalkers, dark alley attackers, serial killers and menacing strangers are dangerously misleading when 90% of rapists are known to the victim and the majority of women murdered knew their killer. That this can so seriously affect justice for women is alarming, to say the least and must be addressed.’

UK crime writers including Steve Mosby, Julia Crouch and Sarah Hilary have taken issue with the prize over what they see as an implication that authors who write about violence against women foster it in real life. Mosby said the prize’s statements were ‘not only offensive, but backwards and wrong-headed’.

‘Many crime writers explore this kind of material because they believe it’s important not to brush it under the carpet—and they do so carefully and with sensitivity, compassion and insight. The message given out by the organisers of the Staunch prize suggests they haven’t read very much of the genre at all,’ said Mosby.

Staunch prize founder Bridget Lawless said that the award had not claimed that ‘crime writers who deal with sexual violence are contributing to it in real life’, adding, ‘But we are concerned about the way that women are depicted as the victims of extreme torture, rape and murder, graphically described, bloody, terrifying and prolonged, normalised and offered up as entertainment. And guess what, so are lots of people, including readers who reject it by preference, and those working to end violence towards women. How does celebrating violence towards women like this deepen our understanding of social issues, as is so frequently claimed? Where is the research that demonstrates that this kind of writing does anything positive socially?’


Category: International news