The Illogicality of Laws Requiring Rape Victims to Prove That They’ve Resisted Assault

Rape, by law, is commonly limited to forced and nonconsensual sexual activities. In many cases, the burden of proof is placed on the victims, making them feel as if they were “blamed for their victimization.” These laws, however, not only are they inconsiderate towards the victims but they also emphasize the failure of the legislators to recognize the body’s physiological response.

In application, the requirement of proof of reasonable resistance corners the victims into deciding whether they have a greater fear of the rape or of physical injury, maybe even death. The vagueness of laws surrounding rape often turn these cases into a battle of words between the defendant and the prosecutor. Going through the lengthy process of retelling their stories, many have stated that they “feel raped a second time.”

In theory, when someone encounters an attacker, they will fight back at all costs. But in reality, it is not always the case. There are multiple reports of cases where the victims were unresponsive. That reaction does not equate to their consent but it is simply due to a condition known as tonic immobility, a natural state of paralysis in which individuals cannot move or even speak. According to a recent case study done by Moller,  of the 300 participants,  70% reported significant immobility and 48% reported extreme immobility during the sexual assault. Furthermore, victims who have experienced tonic immobility have a higher chance of getting post-traumatic stress disorder and severe depression. Kozlowska, who has recently published a research on the brain’s involuntary defense mechanisms, further augmented the flaws of laws concerning rape by providing scientific explanations for this condition.

“These courts are actually causing psychological harm to the women and failing to recognize the body’s innate response to serious attack,” Kozlowska stated.

The argument that rape laws put victims at a disadvantage can be supported by logical arguments and research, through both case study and experimentation. These pieces of evidence have immense implications for rape survivors in the legal system, proving that it is completely illogical for them to carry the burden of providing proof of resistance. Additionally, rape survivors should understand that their ability to fight back may be out of their conscious control.

Photo: Richard Potts/Flickr

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