_SOCIETY Law

_Rape Law Reform Failure

Debates about the term “legitimate rape” and whether a woman’s body can prevent rape permeated media coverage in 2012, shedding light on the fact that views about sexual assault victims continue to be outdated, biased and insensitive, and that victims still lack real rights and protections.

_Rose Corrigan

Corrigan is an associate professor of law and politics and the director of the Women's Studies Department.

Debates about the term “legitimate rape” and whether a woman’s body can prevent rape permeated media coverage in 2012, shedding light on the fact that views about sexual assault victims continue to be outdated, biased and insensitive, and that victims still lack real rights and protections.

In her newest book “Up Against a Wall: Rape Reform and the Failure of Success,” Drexel law and politics professor Rose Corrigan explores the ways in which reforms designed to protect the rights of rape survivors have failed and, in some instances, even backfired. It also examines how state-level policies affect the work of local rape care providers, especially their relationships with medical and legal institutions.

The book draws on interviews with more than 150 local rape care advocates in communities across the United States to explore how and why mainstream systems continue to resist these reforms. Ms. Magazine named the book a “Great Read for Fall 2012.” Corrigan, who holds a joint appointment with Earle Mack School of Law and the College of Arts and Sciences, has focused her research on law and social movements, particularly on the ways that law has shaped movements to respond to sexual and domestic violence.

“As I spoke with advocates working in rape crisis centers across the U.S., what I discovered painted a disturbing picture of medical and legal responses to victims of sexual assault,” Corrigan says. “In many communities, medical personnel make victims wait for hours for treatment, police are dismissive of the seriousness of rape and prosecutors routinely decline to charge cases that they deem ‘difficult.’

“Without a frank discussion about the continuing problems with legal and medical responses to rape, new policy initiatives may compromise—rather than strengthen—fair, competent and compassionate responses to sexual assault. My hope is that telling these stories might help rape crisis centers, state coordinating coalitions, communities and policy-makers develop more effective responses to sexual violence that acknowledge the relationships among law, policy and gendered inequality.”