Forcible Rape in Washington – Criminal and Civil Sanctions

Forcible rape continues to be a problem area in modern society. Special evidentiary ruless used only in rape trials make it a unique area of the law. A variety of reform statutes were adopted in Washington” and throughout the nation during the 1970’s to aid in obtaining more rape convictions and to avoid the past problem of trying the victim. The number of violent rapes by persons who are not known by the victim that occur each year is difficult to accurately estimate. Such rapes are often called “stranger” rapes and represent a significant proportion of total rapes. The fear of violent attack and rape is a major inhibitor of women’s freedom that curtails women’s behavior by limiting the ability to travel freely and safely. This, feminists and sociologists have argued, acts as an instrument of social control. Thus, changes in rape laws and patterns of rape prosecution have become a key rallying point for feminist groups during the past decade.”

Women want to be free of rape and the misconceptions sur- rounding it. Statistics support what feminists have espoused, and many rape laws now hold: rape is a crime of violence,” not passion. In the past, the misconception that rape is a crime of passion led to weak rape laws that put the victim, not the defendant, on trial. Further, such weak or misconceived rape laws have traditionally served as an efficient means of keeping women “in their place.” Today, regardless of the nature of the crime, it is recognized that Women have a right to be free of rape and the misconceptions surrounding it in order to fully realize themselves as equal members of society. To make this right effective, Washington has chosen to impose stringent criminal sanctions for rape. This, and the simultaneous expanded use of civil tort actions, deters potential rapist-aggressors and heightens public awareness as to the na- ture of this criminal act.

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Charles Paul Schuerman, Forcible Rape in Washington – Criminal and Civil Sanctions, 19 Gonz. L. Rev. 363 (1983).

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