When rape shield laws spread across the country in the 1970s to protect sexual misconduct victims from having their sexual histories used against them in court, women could finally come forward without fearing their “promiscuity” would be paraded in front of a jury.

But not all victims were covered by the laws, which were written during a time when society painted some women as virtuous and deserving of protection while others – such as sex workers – often remained unbelieved and unbelievable.

Over the last half-century, the understanding of sexual assault, coercion and consent has evolved, and rape shield laws around the country have been updated.

But in New York, stigmas and misconceptions about trafficking victims and sex workers are still etched into the rape shield statute by treating them differently when they suffer sexual attacks.

“Today, we are literally legitimizing rape by allowing this law to be on the books,” said Lola Balcon, a sex workers’ rights advocate. Now some politicians are seeking to change that.

 

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New York to consider changing rape shield law to protect Sex Workers by Alexandra Villarreal

Nov. 30th, 2018