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Rape and the Failure of Law Reform

NCJ Number
Sexual Assault Report Volume: 5 Issue: 5 Dated: May/June 2002 Pages: 65-66,79,80
Wendy Murphy
Date Published
June 2002
4 pages
Focusing on law reform in Massachusetts, this article addresses how law reform failure has contributed to the suffering women face as victims of rape.
Describing the epidemic of sexual violence in Massachusetts as the result of the criminal justice system’s failure to take the crime of rape seriously, this article suggests that law reform failures are to blame in contributing to the indignities female rape victims experience in the courtroom. Arguing that law reform proposals of the 1960’s and 1970’s failed to improve rape shield laws, the author argues that victims’ irrelevant sexual histories are still presented in the courtroom and jurors are often led to believe that women who do not fight off their attackers are giving their silent consent to be raped. Citing that failed law reform efforts have led to victims fearing blame for their rapes and shame during the criminal justice process by defense attorneys using irrelevant personal information against them in trials, this article argues that police officers also ask inappropriate and personal questions of rape victims. Arguing that the use of rape victims’ irrelevant personal information leads to juror bias and judges failing to take rape cases seriously, the author suggests that sexual violence law reform needs to include refusing to reelect district attorneys who fail to prosecute legitimate rape cases. Suggesting that prolific gender myths abound in rape law, harming the female victims of rape, this article suggests that meaningful sexual violence reform is well overdue.