How Many More Women? by Jennifer Robinson and Keina Yoshida

Reviewed by Gail McDonald

This is a powerful book which details the many examples of what happens once a woman makes a complaint of sexual assault. The authors looked at the incidence of these happenings around the world with many of those noted in the book being very high-profile cases. The authors also note that, although the book refers mainly to cases involving sexual and gender-based violence against women, ‘they are acutely aware that misconduct, harassment, abuse and rape affect people of all genders, including those who are trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming’.

The authors are both human rights lawyers who ‘won’t be silenced’. Jennifer Robinson is a barrister at Doughty Street chambers in London which has acted in key human rights and media freedom cases in domestic and international courts. Dr Keina Yoshida is an international lawyer and barrister in England and Wales and Ireland. She is a practising human rights barrister at the Centre for Women, Peace and Security at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

The impetus for this story is the questions that the authors posed to themselves: How many more women will be raped or killed before the system can be fixed? How many women are scared to walk home alone? How many women actually receive justice in our courts? How many women are silenced by non-disclosure agreements?

The book looks at how man-made laws and legal procedures impact harshly on women who speak out and who try to exercise their right to freedom of speech. The authors also highlight the community attitude to these issues – some with intense interest such as the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard case in America, which was televised for the whole world to view if they were interested.

Often community attitude is hugely biased, claiming that women always lie about sexual assault. Hopefully with books like this, community attitude about sexual assault will change.

In 2017, the ‘MeToo’ movement, so labelled following the disclosure by journalists of the stories by many women regarding the open secret of abuse and manipulation by Harvey Weinstein, who was a very powerful Hollywood producer. Despite the many allegations of abuse, he had managed to silence the women and for such a long time.

Frequently, allegations were followed by strict non-disclosure agreements set up by lawyers, which generally included the payment of a sum of money, that further silenced the victims thus giving power to the perpetrator.

The authors note that the reticence of women to speak out about gender-based violence is slowly changing as women become more empowered to give voice to the abuse they have suffered.  However, this has been followed by an increase in legal action against the accuser.

In the chapter titled ‘Defamation on Trial’, the authors identify that a complainant cannot be sued for defamation for reporting abuse to the police or state authorities, or when giving evidence about it in court. However, a person can be sued for what they say and publish outside of court.

There are many examples of women’s stories in this excellent book – too many to continue to highlight. Suffice to say, it was a fascinating read particularly for anyone interested in these issues and should be read by anyone who is concerned with freedom of speech.

It is important to note that some sections of How Many More Women are heavily redacted due to a high-profile unresolved case in ACT with reference to this noted in the front of the book.

How Many More Women?


by Jennifer Robinson and Keina Yoshida

Allen and Unwin

ISBN 978 176106 670 2

$34.99; 424pp

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