How Sexual Assault Laws have Evolved Over Time in the US | Public attitudes and standards have evolved over time and what might have been considered acceptable at some point in the past would not be okay today, and that includes when viewing such an emotive subject as a sexual assault from a legal perspective.
What hasn’t changed through the generations is the need for dependable sex crime attorneys when a person finds themselves facing a charge. These attorneys will be acutely aware of the history of sexual assault laws and it is worth taking a look at how these have evolved over a period of time in the United States.
Significant changes in the law can be seen from the 1960s
It has been impossible to ignore the rising awareness of sexual assault claims as a result of the highly-publicized #MeToo movement and the fact that the month of April has been known as “Sexual Assault Awareness Month” since 2001 highlights how much attitudes and tolerance levels have moved on from the way things were in the past.
It now seems incredible to even contemplate the fact that a black woman would not even have had the right to file a rape claim against a white man until the 1860s.
Move forward another century and you will see in the timeline that the 1960s provided a pivotal moment in legal history where rape laws in America were significantly upgraded.
What changed in the eyes of the law, as the anti-rape movement gathered pace, was a recognition that rape was being used by some men as a control mechanism. In fact, before the 1970s, the act of marital rape, or the act of one spouse raping the other, was still exempt from many state laws.
It was in 1976 that the state of Nebraska chose to recognize marital rape as a crime and that proved to be the catalyst for other states to follow their lead.
However, it took fully 23 years before marital rape became a crime in every single state across the country.
Rape shield laws
A set of rules were adopted in 1975 into the Federal Rules of Evidence that were widely referred to as “rape shield” laws and these new standards were to have a profound impact on legal cases going forward.
The rules were designed to limit a defendant’s ability to raise questions about a victim’s sexual history or conduct as a way of defending their actions. In other words, using someone’s sexual history against them became a lot harder to do in a court of law.
Moving with the times
Our behaviors and the way we communicate in the modern world mean that sexual assault laws have to be updated in order to reflect the different ways that someone can be “attacked”.
A prime example would be the subject of so-called revenge porn, which is now recognized by almost 40 states. This recognizes that distributing sexually explicit images or videos without that person’s consent can be viewed as a criminal act.
Laws will continue to be updated as society moves forward so that laws reflect current standards of acceptable behavior and recognize what sexual assault means in the modern world.
The United States has come a long when you see how sexual assault laws have changed over time and it is hoped that it will continue to evolve so that everyone gets the legal protection they deserve.