In Aotearoa (New Zealand) between 1842 and 1872, British colonial judges, juries, and journalists expressed their particular understandings of what constituted “rape” in the contexts of Supreme Court trials. Both European and Māori women encountered skepticism in court, frequently shouldering responsibility for provoking the crimes carried out against them, and Māori women faced particular vilification. In the context of British imperial policies of racial amalgamation in the colony, judges frequently declared their strong aversion to the crime of sexual assault but rarely supported their rhetoric with lengthy sentences, even in instances where the perpetrators were Māori. As a result, an important distinction arose between hypothetical scenarios of rape, characterized by judges and the press as egregious, and real-life cases, which rarely met the high standards of rape according to definitions recorded in the press.
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