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History of the Movement


Background: The movement in the 1970s really began by women breaking the silence on the issues of rape and the damages and suffering as a result of rape. Prior to the movement, laws in the legal system did not place much legitimization on the claims of victims. Often in rape trials, the victim felt as if they were on trial instead of the defendant.

Changes: Many states reformed their laws to redefine the consequences of rape convictions. The new penalty would be a gradation of offenses compared to when it used to be a single offense. More importantly, certain laws or requirements were repealed which allowed for women to have more authority in their trials. The first element to be repealed was the requirement that the victim’s testimony had to be corroborated by a witness. It was also repealed that the victim had to have physically resisted the attacker. This aspect particularly protected women with disabilities since they may not have the complete ability to ward off an assailant.

Rape Shield Laws: The enactment of rape shield laws also helped to provide further protection for rape victims during trial. These laws were created to restrict the past sexual history of the victim from being used against them during the trial. Formerly, some defendants’ cases revolved around discrediting the victim’s claims by claiming that she was promiscuous so it was likely to be consensual. [1]

Education and Outreach

International Influence


  1. Frohmann, Lisa, and Elizabeth Mertz. "Legal Reform and Social Construction: Violence, Gender, and the Law." Law & Social Inquiry 19.4 (1994): 829-851.
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