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Rape Victim Advocates' Knowledge and Insight on Rape Laws

NCJ Number
Women & Criminal Justice Volume: 18 Issue: 4 Dated: 2007 Pages: 37-62
Shana L. Maier
Date Published
26 pages
This study explored advocates’ knowledge about rape laws, possible reasons for limited knowledge, and perceptions about various laws that aim to protect rape victims.
Findings suggest that advocates from rape crisis centers maintained a limited knowledge of rape laws and rape reform laws; rape victims found crisis workers to be a good source of moral support but possessed minimal knowledge of the legal process. Although advocates had a somewhat limited grasp of laws intended to aid rape victims, they had an overall negative view of the legal system. The majority of rape victim advocates had a limited knowledge about changes made to rape laws over the years. Advocates working for victims were also unaware of the laws and changes made to the laws that granted them more protection. It is essential that advocates’ level of legal knowledge is known as they may be the first or only source of legal information for victims. Advocates feel that legal changes may be stymied by the lack of change in societal perception of rape victims, and that the overall acceptance of rape myth and victim-blaming attitudes influences the legal process while victims remain a target for blame by the criminal justice professionals. Findings show that in addition to fighting for laws that grant victims more legal protection, there must be a greater effort to dismantle cultural stereotypes that influence global inaction and perpetuate revictimization of victims by the legal system. Data were collected from interviews with 58 rape victim advocates serving 6 rape crisis centers in 4 East Coast States. Notes, references