In early-twentieth century Australia, there is very little evidence to show that the crime of adult rape was of significant concern. Public discussion about rape was often brief, and though it was considered a horrific offence, it was not until the advent of second wave feminism in the 1970s that the issue garnered widespread attention. Before this, however, discussion was limited, and was primarily focused on the most shocking cases. Graphic retellings in the media, coupled with passionate and evocative debates in government and public settings, established a criterion which fundamentally defined what the public considered a ‘believable’ rape beyond criminal legislation. This paper will examine how the crime of rape was understood and conceptualised in public settings in Queensland in the immediate post-war era. An investigation into authoritative and individual discussions of the offence, to audiences, friends, and to the general public, reveals how ideas were influenced by understandings of gender, sexuality, morality and violence. Though complex in nature, it is clear that cohesive attitudes developed from these preconceived ideas and worked to create a ‘typical’, and therefore believable, rape scene.

HPI Student Milestone, Bridget Andresen