Last week the White House released a short, celebrity packed, 60-second public service announcement

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Last week the White House released a short, celebrity packed, 60-second public service announcement (PSA) on the topic of sexual assault. 1 is 2 Many addressed those who are in control of preventing sexual assault as its intended audience was those who can put a stop to sexual violence: the perpetrators or would-be offenders. Although this one minute announcement completes the task of bringing sexual assault to the forefront of discussion, it fails to encompass central issues of rape culture: societal perceptions, the victim, and the justice system. Sexual assault is a phenomenon that has been around for centuries. The culture of sexual assault is rooted in both legal practices and societal perceptions; in order for its reforms to be…show more content…
Historically, the United States has adopted the English common law, where “a conviction of rape required evidence that the perpetrator used force or threats of force against the victim. Rape was defined as ‘carnal knowledge of a woman forcibly and against her will’”(Decker, 2011). Under this definition, in order for the court to determine sexual assault had indeed occurred, five factors needed to be proven: that the victim was a woman, that the act was “illicit and criminal”, that there was “penile-vaginal sexual intercourse during the attack”, that “force” was used, and that the force was “against the victim’s will” (Reddington & Kreisel 2005). Over time, these traditional rape laws were criticized, because “the victim, not the defendant…is on trial” (Spohn, 1999); instead of evaluating the offender’s actions and the seriousness of the injuries, the case often focused on the character of the victim, what he or she was wearing, the time and place, whether the victim was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and other details of the occurrence (Spohn, 1999). In fact, this traditional definition, which was largely used by most jurisdictions, emphasized two dimensions of rape: force and consent.

Over the years each state has adopted different definitions of force and consent. Generally, “’forcible compulsion’ is the statutory language used to denote a force requirement” while “’incapacity to consent’ generally means an inability to appraise or

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