Unit 4 Discussion Post Topic: What are the causes of rape? What are the various issues in the law relevant to the adjudication of sexual assault, such as rape shield laws? Do legal reforms work?
A little background:
Rape first emerged for analysis in the 1970’s. Feminist researchers empirically and theoretically distinguished rape, along with male violence against woman more generally, as a major mechanism explaining the social exploration of women, and saw it functioning simultaneously as a primary mode of domination creating and perpetuating the patriarchal social order (Russell 1975; Scully 1990).
There are many causes of rape and not just men rape, there are women who commit the act of sexual assault as well. We recognize that there are multiple causes, some related to individual pathology of offenders, and most related to a culture that in some way supports, condones or ignores sexually violent messages and/or behavior. Some call this a “rape culture” and point to exploitive images of women and children in the media, the status of women and children in our culture, and the assumption of sexual availability of women, as examples of “rape culture”. According to the MNCASA, nearly 1 in 5 women, or approximately 22 million women, have been raped in their lifetimes and 1 in 71 men, or almost 1.6 million, have been raped (“What is Sexual Violence”, N.D.). Some men have a complex that women are to be submissive to men and do what they say and want without question. Or there are those men who want to feel power over someone else or in some cases, the perpetrator could have a psychological disorder. There is not just one thing that causes someone to rape another, there are many factors. I would even go as far as saying that there have been people that have been rapped out of revenge. I was assaulted when I was very young, I believe I was 9 when it happened. My brother, who was 4 years older than me, had friends that came over all the time, and I was the little sister who bugged them and always wanted to play. One day my brother went outside with one of his friends and the other one stayed behind. I was in the process of cleaning up my room before my mom got home and the next thing I knew, he was behind me and my pants were getting pulled down. Now, I can not say for certain if he truly knew what he was trying to do was wrong, because at that age that he and my brother were, they were coming into their teenage years and were hitting the first stride if sexuality and puberty. He may have seen it in a movie and thought it was normal and ok, but it wasn’t. In most cases, someone who is rapped is assaulted by someone they know. Its less often to be assaulted by a stranger. You would think it would be the other way around, but it makes you really think about who are around and who you let come around you.
There has been and always will be problems with rape and the law. One of the issues in the law that is relevant to the adjunction of sexual assault is the victim being treated like the rapist; not taken seriously or acting like she asked for it because of the way she dressed. Shield laws were put into place to protect victims of rape. They did this by trying to get their sexual history disregarded, or to change the focus from the victim’s actions and behavior to the actual defendant’s behavior. The victim’s sexual history not being plastered is a huge thing. If a girl was rapped but the defense throws out that she was prostitute for 20 years, the jury may be less likely to believe her story and not convict because of her past sexual acts. To me, this should never be let into the court room unless it is necessary, and the victim approves of it. Some of the cases that are harder to prove are the ones where they victims knew their attacker or had a history with them. When it comes to this, its all up to the jury and who they believe. I like to believe in the DNA and evidence, but what if your evidence points to a man she had been seeing for three months and they broke up and she said he got mad and rapped her? How do you prove if this happened or not? There is always a silver lining, not black or white, especially when it comes to rape reform. The silver lining with this is, is that they tried to get victims past sexual history from being talked about, but this victim is making it up and the jury won’t get to hear about the last 3 claims of rape she made when the men she was dating dumped her. There is always a silver lining. I believe that legal reforms could be better and work better, if they would try and look at things from all angels, that way it won’t go against the victim or with the defendant. It needs to play evenly for both sides, so the real victims get justice and the real criminals get punishment. Just like every person is different, every rape case is different. Some cases might have DNA, some might not, and some may be videotaped. Or the stranger rape with the DNA who’s not in the system or the house wife who said her neighbor rapped her when her husband walked in on them? Sometimes, you never know what the truth is or who the real criminal.
Siegel, L. J. (2017). Criminology: The Core, 6th Edition. [Kaplan]. Retrieved from https://kaplan.vitalsource.com/#/books/9781305887336/
What is Sexual Violence? (n.d.). Retrieved January 3, 2018, from http://www.mncasa.org/what-is-sexual-violence/less
Professors response and comment to my original post:
why is rape shield a “huge thing”? Does it do anything? If it does how do you know that? That is, what sort of evidence do you have to support your claim?
My response to professors’ comment and questions:
Rape shield is a very huge thing. I am sorry, but I guess I tend to write how I feel and say things, with a lot of emotion. Rape shield was written to protect rape victims form having their pasts used against them. For example:
Mrs. Jane is accusing Mr. Doe of rape. Mrs. Jane said that she had met Mr. Doe at a bar, and that they had had a couple drinks and danced and talked. When it was getting late, he offered to walk her home, seeing as it was only a couple blocks away. After saying goodbye, she turned her back and went to open her door and he pushed his way him, behind her. After that, she said that he preceded to push her into room and forced himself on top of her and raped her. As the legal process goes and the trial comes, Mr. Doe and his defense is trying to say that Mrs. Jane had a prior sexual encounter and that is what caused the vaginal trauma she had when she had a medical exam after she reported the rape. No DNA was found but spermicide was found because the assailant used a condom. Rape shield comes into play with this scenario, because her past relationships and encounters will not be allowed to be admitted into court, only the evidence at hand and testimony are able to be used.
Rape shield helps in situations like that because they try and make the victim look like a girl who sleeps around a lot, or a girl who had a one-night stand and is ashamed, or even someone who cheated and is crying rape to cover it up. I’m sure there have been plenty of actual cases where these types of things happened and were true, and its because of things like this that have caused people to question a victim when they say they are rapped. As much as I am for rape shield, it has a disadvantage as well. The same way it helps protect victims, it can also help protect a liar as well. If someone is saying they were raped and its not true, and this person has made allegations like that in the past, there would be a trail of it. Well, because of rape shield, none of that would be able to be talked about in court. There is always a drawback to everything, but I believe that rape shield was a great leap to help victims of assault and help change the view that victims of rape were asking for it because they wore a short skirt or have had a lot of partners.
In rape cases or cases with sexual misconduct, there is evidence that cannot be used.
Staff, L. (2011, November 30). Rule 412. Sex-Offense Cases: The Victim. Retrieved January 06, 2018, from https://www.law.cornell.edu/rules/fre/rule_412
- Evidence offered to prove that a victim engaged in other sexual behavior
- Evidence offered to prove a victim’s sexual predisposition (Staff, 2011)