What is Rape Shield Law and What are its Punishments in Florida?
Rape is a violent sexual act with an individual without his or her consent. Sexual assault is a broader term that encompasses rape and an act of rape may or may not include sexual intercourse. It was believed that rape was a result of uncontrolled sexual desire. Sometimes it is also attributed to racial, ethnic, or class hatred.
Statistics indicate that in terms of a number of reported rape cases the U.S. is ahead along with countries such as South Africa and Sweden.
All countries in the world treat rape as a heinous crime and there are laws against rape in all countries. But there is a lack of uniformity in the definition of rape across various countries.
In some countries, a sexual assault is a rape only if there is non-consensual penile penetration of the vagina, while other nonconsensual sexual activities are called sexual assault.
In the U.S. rape was considered as a crime committed by men on women till 2012. In 2012 rape was redefined. The new definition states that both male and female can be victims or perpetrators of rape. Even the slightest nonconsensual penetration of vagina or anus with any part of the body or any object and nonconsensual oral penetration by a sex organ with another person are brought under the definition of rape.
The U.S. faced the problem of underreporting and low conviction rates in dealing with rape cases. The humiliation and trauma of getting raped and subsequent questioning by investigative agencies lead to further, and eventually, the crime goes unreported. In the majority of rape cases, males are perpetrators and females are victims. In the absence of rape shield laws, a woman's past sexual history was discussed in the legal scrutiny to imply that she had a low moral character or she had actually consented. To address the problem, rape shield laws are introduced in many countries, including the U.S.
Rape shield laws limit admitting past sexual history of the victim in a trial to defend against rape charges. In the U.S. first rape shield law was passed in Michigan in 1974. All other states followed and brought in rape shield laws soon after. The Violence Against Women act of 1994 developed a federal rape shield law. However, critics of rape shield laws allege that the laws violate the defendant’s sixth amendment right to confront the accuser and also violate civil liberties including freedom of speech.
The state of Florida introduced the Sexual Battery Statute in 1974 with distinct provisions of rape shield. As per Florida laws, no corroboration of the victim's testimony is required, and evidence regarding the victim’s earlier sexual conduct not involving the offender can’t be admitted.
Some evidence may be admitted if it is established in a court proceeding in a camera that it establishes that the defendant was not the source of semen, pregnancy, injury or disease. Evidence regarding consent by the victim may be admitted if the same can be established in a court proceeding in camera, and the evidence is found to be relevant to the issue of consent.
Florida rape shield laws have been amended from time to time. A notable incident happened in 1989 when a Florida jury acquitted a man of rape charges by giving a verdict which included an outrageous comment regarding the way the woman was dressed. The incident ensured the passage of legislation in 1990, limiting the admissibility of the manner of dress of the victim in a prosecution for sexual battery.
Florida rape shield laws have been extended to prosecutions relating to human trafficking, lewd and lascivious offenses committed on or in the presence of children less than 16 years of age.