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A History Of Rape Essay, Research Paper

Amongst the ancient Hebrews, who flourished about 1000 B.C. women were portrayed as more sexual than men, and their status was inferior to that of men. Sexual activities were supposed to be confined to one’s spouse, but women who failed to uphold these rules was dealt with more severely than those by males because women were considered to be man’s property. The Jewish law of that time was defined as adultery, and was punishable by death. According to the Hebrews, adultery referred only to a married woman’s sexual intercourse with a man other than her husband. A man who had intercourse with another man’s wife was charged only with the violation of the husband’s property rights. While the punishment was severe, the man did not receive the death penalty, only the woman did. So, if a man committed the crime of rape (as we know it today) the woman, or “property”, was put to death and the man escaped with a severe punishment, but not death. The idea that women were property is also reflected in some Old Testament views regarding prostitution and rape. Because a woman belonged to a man, rape was considered theft. A man who raped the daughter of another man could absolve the situation by either paying the father, or marrying the daughter. It wasn’t a crime for a father to sell sexual access of his daughter to other men. However, if a woman chose to have sexual relations with other men, and deprived her father of the fee, she committed a capital crime! This offense could result in the daughter of an ordinary citizen being stoned to death. If the daughter of a priest committed such an offense, the priest could request the daughter to be put to death by fire. Girls who had sex (or raped) before the age of 12 had their punishment postponed until their 12th birthday, at which they were then stoned to death. In 1486, two German theologians, Sprenger and Kramer published a book called Malleus Maleficarum which diagnosed procedures of identifying witchcraft. Of these procedures a woman was susceptible to witchcraft because of her carnal (sexual) lust. This book expressed the dangers of women’s lust and their moral depredations. Because of this on growing fear of the enticements and evil’s of a woman’s sexuality in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the attempt to “save” the community took the form of witch hunts. A male could, therefore “take” a woman, and because the people of this time period believed that the woman was evil with her seductions, the result of today’s crime of sexual assault would result in her death and the man’s cleansing of the soul. In the nineteenth century, when the Industrial Revolution created a middle class, the roles of males and females began to become separated. The dominating sexual ideals of this time was called Victorianism. During this time period women were expected to be passive and emotional and to concern themselves only with their proper place, the home. In contrast to the middle ages where women lured men to commit sin, in the nineteenth century the blame for lust was directly put on men. It was during this period that a woman’s morality, taste, and feelings were more developed than men. Thus, the evolution towards today’s sexual assault laws began to grow. Men begin to become more liable for their roles in sexual assault towards women. The Victorian era was so influential that until recently many women attempted to hid their sexual interest and worried about “animalistic” feelings. During the first part of the century, men believed that it took alot of effort to pursuade a woman to have sex, and that it took more work to get her aroused and orgasmic. The Kinsey group and Masters and Johnson helped, through their research, to partially shift these views. Today, in some circles, females are seen as sexual, and some argue that females are more capable of sexual response than males are. Masters and Johnson suggest that women are more sexual than men because of their ability to have multiple orgasms. We have not completely escaped the early time beliefs where women were thought to have magical powers over men because of women’s seductiveness. For example, the saying “a woman’s intuition” gives the idea that women’s power of perception exceed those of men. The idea that women provoke rape by enticing men beyond their capability to control themselves – a belief that degrades both women and men – is still accepted by many contemporary North Americans. Today, every state in the United States has a law against sexual assault or rape, yet the specific definition of the crime varies. In fact, in 1974 Michigan became the first state to make a rape reform law that was intended to eliminate the century old myths and legal traditions that were applied to the crime of rape. Since 1974, all 50 states have modified their sexual assault laws. The reforms include the following goals:

1) To increase the likelihood of reporting assault, as well as the arrest and conviction rates. 2) To make the legal standard for sexual assault consistent with those for other crimes. 3) To increase control over decisions made in the criminal-justice system. 4) To protect victims from demeaning treatment during rape trials by limiting cross- examination. 5) To sensitize and educate society about the status and rights of women. There are many states that do not use the term rape anymore because of it’s connotation of forced penile-vaginal penetration. The term sexual assault is now used so that it implies coercive sexual contact. Many states have also re-written their laws so that the terms are gender-neutral and can make the offender to be either male or female. Finally, marital status has been stricken as a defense against sexual assault. My opinion of the evolution from the ancient Hebrews to today’s sexual assault laws is that women as victims have certainly come a long way! Women are now able to make an outcry when the crime of sexual assault occurs, and have the means to which they can bring the perpetrator (if found) to justice. However, rape trials can be as humiliating as the sexual assault itself. With this in mind, unfortunately many women choose not to even speak of the incident. In my opinion, the concept of males being victims of sexual assault has brought today’s society back to the times of the ancient Hebrews. It seems that the roles of males v. females have “flip-flopped” and it is now the opinion that males cannot be raped. I believe this to be very untrue. In fact, in the Arab countries, when a person is caught intruding in a harem the person is turned over to slaves to be used for their sexual pleasure. Rape of captive soldiers in war is common among the Arabs, Persians, Greeks, and Romans. This tradition, that has been around for centuries, continues according to the International Commission of Geneva. In the Middle East Americans arrested on drug charges are chained by the ankle to a bed in prison and are left there for 24 hours to be raped by inmates. In America, judges frequently sentence young first time offenders to a very short prison term, such as 30 to 90 days, followed by five or more years probation. One must wonder when this is done if the judge hasn’t sent the criminal to prison just long enough to be raped before he is released. One could see how this tactic would certainly deter a criminal from future crime! These forms of rape of males are used as punishment. There are many ways for men to be raped, and it’s a fact, even though many people in the U.S. refuse to believe that it could occur. Even though there are many changes that could be made, I believe the changes from the ancient Hebrews, to the Victorian era and the Industrial Revolution to today have been for the better. For the men however, I am reluctant to believe they feel the same. I believe the law was the way it was because of society’s interpretations of the bible during biblical times. Women was considered subservient to men therefore women were considered man’s property. It would seem only natural in society’s view, during those periods that women could not claim sexual abuse. I believe that the law throughout history has changed as a result of society’s changing interpretation of religion, the Victorian and Industrial period (where women’s roles became more profound), to the women’s movement which demanded equality. To an exceptional degree prejudices against women have been reduced since biblical times, a force that I believe is certainly a factor in the evolution from which women were considered witches to the term sexual assault. The question of what changes may be necessary to improve today’s sexual assault laws may include some of the following suggestions: 1) Continuing education on the crime of sexual assault through the use of prime-time television commercials, and documentaries. 2) Continuing education through the use of radio. 3) Instead of internet “pop-ups”, which seem to be an annoyance that we can’t seem to get rid of, use the “pop-ups” for community education instead of being used to entice deviant sexual conduct. 4) Emphasize that men can be victims, as well as women, of sexual assault. 5) Encourage victims of sexual assault to report sexual assault offenses. 6) Educate the public of their rights against the violation of sexual assault and ensure the victims that humiliation is not directed at the victim, the accused is the focus of humiliation. 7) Make #6 a practice, for judges to uphold, in all courtrooms.

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