The “Ideal” Rape Victim

Topics: Rape, Sexual intercourse, Sexual assault Pages: 8 (2096 words) Published: October 15, 2014
Question 3) The “Ideal” Rape Victim

Dr. Rashmee Singh
Friday, April 2nd, 2014

Throughout this paper, I will discuss the concept of the ideal rape victim and discuss both sides of this debate, whether it is true or untrue. I will discuss examples as to why it is true that the ideal rape victim works today, beginning from the concept of rape in the 1800's to discussing myths and stereotypes around rape. The creation of the Rape Shield Laws, and how it played a significant role in the judicial system regarding consent and credibility. As well as draw from examples from Crenshaw regarding intersectionality, to how race plays a factor in rape to Larcombe's argument about the definition of the ideal rape victim has transitioned over the years.

The definition of the ideal rape victim has transformed over the years, originally women who said they were raped were only believed under certain circumstances. They immediately had to report the rape, the longer they waited the more it had a negative impact on their credibility. (Smith, 187, 1974) The victims had to have extremely resisted from their assailant in order for their claim to be accepted. (Smith, 188, 1974) Any discrepancy in the struggle would suggest that the woman was seducing the man. The victim would have had to protect her honour virtually until death. (Crenshaw, 1261, 1991) Meaning if there was any doubt if the woman struggled or tried to fight off the offender, or if the woman's physical body did not reflect a significant struggle, then the case would be dismissed. (Larcombe, 135, 2002) If the woman was seen to be deviant or promiscuous within society it would devalue her story her case would not even be considered. Only women who had traditional family backgrounds or credibility were taken seriously by the law. (Smith, 190, 1974)

Prior to 1983, rape within marriage was not illegal, rape could only occur within a heterosexual context and there were specific conditions that criminalized rape, for example, if it resulted in a loss of virginity. (Saunders, 2012) Women were legally seen as their husbands or father's property, if they decided to go to court, they had to be accompanied with their spouse or father. (Smith, 188, 1974) Some provisions of the past consist of section 146: criminalized sexual intercourse with a female aged 14-16 of “previously chaste character” or section 151: penalized the seduction of a female from 16-18 years of age of “previously chaste character.” (Saunders, 2012)

Which leads me into the next true statement about ideal rape victims, the concept of the good woman/bad woman dichotomy and how that came into play in the judicial court system regarding consent and credibility within rape cases. As I previously mentioned, early in the 1800's a women's prior sexual history could be revealed in court, if a woman was seen as promiscuous her case would be thrown out, due to the popular myths and stereotypes around sexually active women. (Smith, 192, 1974) In 1983, Bill C-49 was amended to the Criminal Code of Canada otherwise known as the “Rape Shield Laws” it established strict guidelines about what and how previous sexual history could be used by a defendant at trial. (Tang, 260, 1998) Before 1975, there were virtually no barriers at all on prior sexual history, parliament passed the first legislation preventing the admission of previous sexual history into rape trials. (Tang, 261, 1998) The legislation only allowed the defense to introduce prior sexual history in instances where it was “reasonable”, regardless, the defence practically had full access. (Tang, 272, 1998) In 1983, it was finally amended, section 276 placed restrictions on the admissibility of evidence pertaining to previous sexual history of the woman who was raped. (Singh, 2014) Evidence was only admissible in the following situations, one, to rebut evidence introduced by the crown and to establish the identity of the accused....


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Larcombe, W. (2002). THE ‘IDEAL’ VICTIM V SUCCESSFUL RAPE COMPLAINANTS: NOT WHAT YOU MIGHT EXPECT. Learn Waterloo, 131-148.
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