Title: Rape I
Author: Leigh Bienen
Publisher: Women’s Rights Law Reporter
Issue: Volume 3, pp. 45-57
Description: Work began in the fall of 1975. Research was started with the specific intention of designing a chart which would summarize the rapidly changing rape laws in every jurisdiction in the United States.
The chart was to be a reference tool for practicing attorneys, lobbyists, and those interested in the women’s movement. The commentary was intended to be no more than a brief history of recent reform in an area central to the concerns of the women’s movement. As always, research proved to be more difficult, cumbersome and technical than anticipated. If the Women’s Rights Law Reporter had not had the foresight to commit the magazine to publication early in the project, this research probably would never have been made generally available.
The compilation of the laws clearly required some commentary. Since research was conducted in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey, at the time it seemed reasonable to include a brief legislative history of the rape laws in those two states. However, the New Jersey State Library, the official library of the New Jersey State Legislature, had nothing on record, although complete legislative histories of many other New Jersey laws were on file. Also, I discovered that the legislative history in both the New Jersey and Pennsylvania annotated statutes was in neither case strictly accurate and in both cases incomplete.
What is included in Sections II and III is a tracing of the two rape statutes back to the earliest rape and sex offense statutes in the two jurisdictions. And, since both statutes originated in English law, some research on the common and statutory law in England is included. I did not attempt to look at historical accounts, debates surrounding the passage of statutes, or the developments of other parts of the law. Rather, the rape laws are chronicled with the relevant amendments and repealing statutes, concluding with the law currently in force. These legislative histories raised so many questions that a section detailing the difference in statutory development in the two states, focusing on the impact of the Model Penal Code, is added in Section IV.
Finally, commentary would have been incomplete without some reference to federal law. The rape laws, like most criminal laws, are matters of state law jurisdiction. The federal laws regarding rape are summarized in Section V, and the recent Supreme Court cases directly related to rape are discussed in Section VI. Commentary upon the recent important Virginia sodomy statute decision is reserved for a later issue.
While the Women’s Rights Law Reporterhas published the material in two parts, the issues are meant to be read together. The commentary to the rape laws included in Rape I is background to the material presented in the chart and commentary in Rape II. Discussion of the developments in Pennsylvania and New Jersey indicates that the chart and commentary only begin to scratch the surface in detailing the history and development of the law in the 53 American jurisdictions…