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Rape Law Reform

17 Feb 2017

A Chinese philosopher once said that every individual is a sub-culture of himself. That is, no one is truly a product of a singular mold that shapes and fashions every human being in the planet. It would be much simpler to state that no two people are alike or are ever quite equal either in strength of character or in leadership or even in the manifestation of behavioral prototypes. It would appear then that in spite of all the similarities that may be perceived in all human beings, there is still no singular blueprint for existence.

It has been a major tenet in debate that any topic that falls within the realm of culture and societal exchange is unworkable. It means that every time that culture would be used as the measuring stick in evaluating an instigated transformation, the study would most likely reap inaccurate results.

The fact of the matter is that society and culture is so fleeting and indefinite for the reason that human beings are the building blocks that comprises such structure. That is, in any situation where individuals are the so-called determinants of change, it cannot be fully grasped as people are distinctive and diverse. As each individual is a character in his own right, a single representative of a particular community cannot be had. No one can be made to embody an entire population.

The study conducted by Julie Horney and Cassia Spohn entitled, ‘Rape Law Reform and Instrumental Change in Six Urban Jurisdictions’ is a proof to said claim. This is a research made is in consideration of the growing clamor to amend most laws pertaining to rape. The popular demand has been a result of the communal awakening that lesser and lesser rape victims have been willing and determined to see their attackers punished and placed behind bars. The fact that the times have led into an evolution of morality, it appears to most people that a reverse effect on the number of these crimes are reported. That is, because of the growth of civilization into a more mature and liberal society, it seems that a parallel movement in the preponderance of crimes may be expected. However, as it turned out in the said study, such fact was not true.

The said study revolves on Rape Shield Law as it pertains to the law that limits a defendant’s ability to cross-examine the complainant about their past sexual behavior. In some instances, this is also used to refer to a law that prohibits the publication of the identity of an alleged rape victim.

It must be argued that in the late 1970s and early 1980s, almost all jurisdictions in the United States have adopted some form of rape shield statute. The fact is that the laws in each state differ according to the scope of sexual behavior shielded and time limits of the shield. Many American states do not permit any evidence relating to the past sexual behavior of the complaining witness or victim. This would include evidence of specific instances of the victim's prior or subsequent sexual conduct including opinion evidence or reputation evidence.

The study by Horney and Spohn focused on six localities that have adopted rape law reforms. Such developments may be said to fall under four different spheres: first are changes in the definition of rape; second, concerns the elimination of the resistance requirement; third, pertains to the elimination of the corroboration requirement; and lastly, the enactment of rape shield laws in the respective localities.

The study assessed the impact of rape law reform in Detroit, Michigan; Cook County (Chicago), Illinois; Philadelphia County (Philadelphia), Pennsylvania; Harris County (Houston), Texas; Fulton County (Atlanta), Georgia; and Washington, D. C. – as these are the states one that afforded developments in rape law. The researchers further stated that there appears to be a significant difference in the manner and content of such rape laws.

The study more particularly dealt on evaluating the impact that reforms on rape law may cause on the number of reports of rape instances and the outcome of rape cases. Horney and Spohn also tested the reformer’s expectations that the said reforms would result in increases in the reporting of rape cases to the police, the indictment of rape cases by prosecutors, and the conviction of offenders.
The said study yielded the idea that the legal changes did not produce the anticipated results. It was shown that the reforms had no impact in most of the jurisdictions. It was mentioned that the fact that the reformers did not assume that the behavior of the decision-makers in the criminal justice system would affect the study has caused a significant skew in the orientation of the results. The fact that human intervention in the litigation and final judgment of rape cases was also not taken into consideration had caused an imprecision in the result generation.

In relation to the study itself, it can be argued that it is a measurable paper as the problem may be resolved by looking into the procedural matters that a typical rape situation would typically have to undergo. The research problem had a direct link to the variables used – dependent variables (i.e. number of reports of forcible rape; the indictment ratio; the percentage of convicted felons; the percentage of those felons who were convicted on the original charge; the percentage of those who are incarcerated; and the average sentence that the convicts received). The usage of the Time-Series Analysis contributed a lot to the benefit of the study as it made it possible for the research paper to have an in-depth review and a cross-sectional perspective (time-sensitive) of the development and its probable effects.

The hypotheses that were considered in this paper were all measurable as it only required a close monitoring of the increase or decrease in the number of reported rape cases, the number of indictment of rape cases by prosecutors and the number of conviction of offenders.

But the fact remains that any study that utilizes the Time-Series Analysis would have to face with the difficulty in not having the mechanism to control history as a threat to internal validity. This was mentioned in the study of Horney and Spohn that at the time of intervention or the period of study, a different set of events would have to be contented with that may not be paramount to the situation at the time that the research design or methodology was formulated. The fact is that other instances may account for the results that were generated which are actually in no way related to the study at hand.

The sensitivity and qualitative character of the Time-Analysis Approach may then be maintained as its greatest liability as these are the factors that introduces the problematic area of the research. To some extent it may be argued that the optimal regard placed upon society and history – or culture is the most precarious aspect that the research study may have.
As mentioned, there seems to be a very big difficulty whenever any matter rests on the determination or assessment of anything that is directly attributable to human nature and behavior. In this case, the fact that rape laws and its consequential upshots is determinable only upon complete and absolute recognizance of human conduct or, in a nutshell, culture. That is, if a basic human reaction is to be had, culture has to be measured.

In this particular case, since the study revolves on the possible effect of rape shield laws on rape cases, human nature has to be considered. This is due to the fact that criminal laws are deeply intertwined with society as this is the controlling mechanism of the government to its citizens.

The situation created is that a society is made up of many varied individuals with differing behavior and beliefs. As such, a particular locality would have a different attitudinal manifestation in relation to another. As individuals are unique and particularized, a district would be similarly dissimilar and divergent.

In the study made by Horney and Cassia, an open consideration of the possible effects of rape shield laws is possible if it would be done in a long-sectional manner. This would mean a historical qualitative review of the development of rape laws. This would be done in a singular perspective only. That is, this would not be open for comparative review.

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