The Failure of Rape Law Reform

Debates about the term “legitimate rape” and whether or not a woman’s body can prevent rape have permeated media coverage in recent months, shedding light on the fact that views about sexual assault victims continue to be outdated, biased and insensitive, and that victims still lack real rights and protections.Up Against A Wall

In her new book Up Against a Wall: Rape Reform and the Failure of Success, Drexel law and society scholar Dr. Rose Corrigan explores the ways in which reforms designed to protect the rights of rape survivors have failed and, in some instances, even backfired. It also examines how state-level policies affect the work of local rape care providers, especially their relationships with medical and legal institutions.

The book draws on interviews with more than 150 local rape care advocates in communities across the United States to explore how and why mainstream systems continue to resist these reforms. Ms. Magazine named the book a “Great Read for Fall 2012.”

“As I spoke with advocates working in rape crisis centers across the U.S., what I discovered painted a disturbing picture of medical and legal responses to victims of sexual assault,” said Corrigan. “In many communities, medical personnel make victims wait for hours for treatment, police are dismissive of the seriousness of rape and prosecutors routinely decline to charge cases that they deem ‘difficult.’

“Without a frank discussion about the continuing problems with legal and medical responses to rape, new policy initiatives may compromise—rather than strengthen—fair, competent and compassionate responses to sexual assault. My hope is that telling these stories might help rape crisis centers, state coordinating coalitions, communities, and policy-makers develop more effective responses to sexual violence that acknowledge the relationships among law, policy and gendered inequality.”

Corrigan will discuss and sign copies of her new book on Wednesday, Feb. 13 from 5:15 – 6:30 p.m. in Room 340 at Drexel’s Earle Mack School of Law (3320 Market St.). This event is free and open to the public. **EDITOR’S NOTE: Click here for a synopsis of the event.

Rose_Corrigan-Corrigan holds a joint appointment with the Earle Mack School of Law and the College of Arts and Sciences at Drexel University, where she is an associate professor of politics and the director of the Women’s Studies Department. Her research focuses on law and social movements, particularly on the ways that law has shaped movements to respond to sexual and domestic violence. Corrigan has worked in the fields of reproductive rights and with survivors of sexual and domestic violence for more than 15 years at organizations including Women Organized Against Rape, the Domestic Abuse Project of Delaware County and the Philadelphia Women’s Medical Fund.

For members of the news media who are interested in speaking further with Dr. Rose Corrigan, please contact me at