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Posted on August 19th, 2012, by

A rape shield law in the United States of America and Canada is a law that limits a defendant’s ability to cross-examine rape complainants about their past sexual behaviour. The purposes of rape shield laws alter. One of the purposes is to be at the centre of attention of the trial on the supposed rapist’s guilt and not on the victim’s sexual history. A second purpose is that it is generally thought that a victim’s previous sexual activity doesn’t refer to the accused’s culpability. A third purpose is that these laws make it more likely a victim will come forward and report rape. According to the last statistical data the number of victims who prefer not to complain to the police about sexual assaults during the average year as high as 59%, rape shield laws can be an important tool to increase reporting.

Rape shield laws are classified into four different types. One of them is “Legislated Exceptions Laws”ť. The above-mentioned laws contain prohibitions on the introduction of evidence concerning opinion and reputation of the victim’s sexual predisposition or history until the evidence offered by the defendant falls within a group of exceptions.

The reasons and purposes for rape shield exceptions are different. The exception that allows the admission of complainant’s prior sexual history to show that someone other than the accused was the source of semen, other bodily fluid, and the cause of the injury is generally permitted because it allows the defendant an opportunity to attack the complainant’s credibility and demonstrate that the charges may be false. The exception permitting testimony that is necessary in order to protect a defendant’s constitutional right is justified because a law cannot have more legal validity than the Constitution.

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