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NCJ Number: 205051 Find in a Library
Title: Prostitution and Trauma in U.S. Rape Law
Journal: Journal of Trauma Practice  Volume:2  Issue:3/4  Dated:2003  Pages:75-92
Author(s): Michelle J. Anderson
Date Published: 2003
Page Count: 18
Type: Legislation/Policy Analysis
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article examines United States appellate court decisions in rape cases involving complainants who have formerly worked as prostitutes for drugs or money.
Abstract: Previous studies have established that prostitutes experience frequent and violent sexual attacks. Despite the prevalence of rape victimization among prostitutes, such attacks are rarely reported to police and even more rarely end in convictions of the attackers. Low report and conviction rates are related to the victim’s history with prostitution. The author asserts that law is the formal mechanism through which society defines what has happened to prostitutes who are raped. As such, this article examines prostitution’s importance in rape law and analyzes the main ways in which courts struggle with the question of whether to admit evidence of a rape complainant’s prior engagement in prostitution. Section 1 discusses the prevalence of rape within the general population and among prostitutes. Prostitutes are especially vulnerable to sexual violence because their attackers know they are unlikely to seek or received legal redress for the crimes committed against them. Section 2 analyzes prostitution’s importance in rape law. Rape law emerged amid expectations of who could be a victim of rape. Sexually promiscuous women faced a diminished capacity to seek legal relief. Section 3 examines the three main outcomes of a court’s struggle with the admissibility of evidence of prostitution. First, when the rape defendant claims that the rape occurred during an act of prostitution, some courts have allowed evidence of the defendant’s prior prostitution as relevant to the case at hand. Second, some courts go the opposite way and rule that evidence of prior prostitution is admissible only as a basis for proving the motive to fabricate the rape. Third, other courts have held that evidence of prior prostitution is admissible only if the evidence involves a prior threat to report a false rape or to take revenge against a customer. Section 4 explores the increasingly common situation in which a rape complainant has a prior history of prostitution in exchange for drugs, further decreasing the victim’s credibility in a court of law. Section 5 analyzes the ways in which courts misunderstand prostitution and the impact such a misunderstanding has when the admissibility of evidence of prior prostitution is an issue. Notes, references, cases
Main Term(s): Prostitution; Rape law reform
Index Term(s): Discrimination; Rape; Rape investigations
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