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Legal Emancipation for the Victim of Rape

NCJ Number
Human Rights Volume: 11 Issue: 3 Dated: (Winter 1984) Pages: 30-35
C P Nemeth
Date Published
6 pages
This paper examines the use of court-ordered psychiatric examinations of sexual assault victims in view of recent case laws and analyzes the influence that reform has had upon this specific motion practice.
The distrust of rape victims built into the law of rape gave rise to procedural motions which scrutinized the mentality of anyone asserting this charge. Early case law shows a decided opposition to the content of any rape complaint. Filing of a motion became the standard procedure. Courts had discretionary power to grant or deny the motion. Recent case law indicates that judicial discretion is being exercised today in a reformist context. Motions are denied if the defendant does not provide a solid justification for the request. A lack of sufficient corroboration is also often cited as a rationale for supporting a denial of a motion. Courts are also carefully weighing the potential probative value of an examination against the possibility of excessive prejudice to the complainant. Simple credibility impeachment is also not enough; the defense must show a specific need for a motion to be granted. In addition, if the granting of the motion would be counter to the spirit of rape shield laws, the motion will be denied. Courts will, however, consider the due process right of discovery when deciding the merits of the motion. Thus, courts now view the motion as a drastic measure and as an affront to women. The reform effort has effectively influenced judicial policy and practice without any significant legislative mandate. Nineteen footnotes are provided.


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