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Up Against a WallRape Reform and the Failure of Success$
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Rose Corrigan

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780814707937

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814707937.001.0001

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The Anti-Rape Movement and the Turn to Law

The Anti-Rape Movement and the Turn to Law

(p.21) The Anti-Rape Movement and the Turn to Law
Up Against a Wall

Rose Corrigan

NYU Press

This chapter provides an overview of law and social change among 1970s rape law reformers, emphasizing both their reluctance to work with the state and their reasons for ultimately doing so. Anti-rape activists had deep antipathy toward law that made them outsiders to the legal process. The poor political “fit” between feminist ideology and legal actors and institutions was compounded by the insufficiency of criminal law as a vehicle for aspirational reforms. As a result of the choice to focus on criminal law, reformers never articulated a positive vision of rights to go along with their political and ideological critique of rape. When the first wave of reform was completed, feminist lawyers participating in statutory reform campaigns moved on to other issues, leaving the articulation and protection of the rights of rape victims in the hands of legal and medical professionals allied with state interests. Without the presence of a committed and engaged social movement or the assistance of committed legal strategists, rape crisis centers (RCCs) quickly lost political leverage to ensure that those professionals complied with even minimum standards of fair treatment of those victims.

Keywords:   rape law reform, social change, feminist activists, anti-rape movement, rape victims, fair treatment, rape crisis centers

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