The operation of law involves a continual use of strategies, in which one is constantly balancing the possibilities against the probabilities. Again, let us be clear - in general, it is a more than uneven fight. As law is constituted in a society which still privileges sections of that society in terms of gender, race, class and socially defined standards of ability, so it is by no means a 'free space' for equal engagement. But neither is it closed space which we must continually struggle against rather than within.
(Bottomley and Conoghan 1993:3)
The previous chapters suggest that the courts are a hostile place for some women claiming sexual assault, the experience often constituting a form of 'second assault'. For this reason some feminists - academics and grassroots activists - have been reluctant to engage with the law at all. The Tokyo Rape Crisis Centre (TRCC), for example, is primarily concerned with empowering women who have been victimised and therefore does not attempt to persuade women to pursue legal channels, although this option is discussed and feminist lawyers are available for legal advice. 1
After almost two decades of debate concerning sexual assault and the implementation of feminist-inspired law reforms in numerous countries, by the end of the 1980s much of the feminist literature, particularly radical feminist writing, was sceptical if not completely dismissive of law's potential to effect meaningful change. Not only was it clear to most that law reforms were not going to stop men from committing rape, but there was increasing evidence that despite the range of law reform adopted in Anglo-European countries there had been a general lack of success in achieving higher rates of conviction and more sensitive legal procedural practices (Los 1992; NSW Department for Women 1996). The British 'school' of feminist criminologists, in particular, began to argue that law reform was dangerous territory for feminists:
If reforms are geared only to curbing the more obvious excesses of men's violence and to protecting women the police define as deserving of male protection, then women's demands will only shore up the