Sexting as 'Sexual Behavior' Under Rape Shield Laws
As part of the proliferation of online communications, there has been a global increase in sexually explicit social media messages and consensual sexting among teenagers and adults of all ages. As a result, these kinds of electronic communications have begun to be used as evidence in a wide variety of court cases, including sexual harassment and discrimination cases. However, courts have only begun to consider whether such communications, particularly sexting communications, should be usable to impeach a sexual assault complainant, or whether these kinds of communications should be protected under rape shield laws as sexual “conduct” or “behavior.” This article traces the history of rape shield laws in four common law countries: the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia, and, using the history and purpose of these laws, argues that sexting should be protected under rape shield laws to protect sexual assault victims from unnecessary questioning about evidence that is likely to be embarrassing, prejudicial, and irrelevant to the case.
This article forms a part of Special Issue on Sexting, International Journal of Cyber Criminology, Vol 11 issue 2, July - December 2017. Guest Editors: Fawn Ngo, K. Jaishankar, Jose R. Agustina.
Ashtari, B., & Thompson, I. (2012). Rape Shield Laws and Social Networking Websites: Is there any Privacy Left to Protect? Federal Crime Defense Journal, 2, 72-95. Anderson, M. J. (2002). From Chastity Requirement to Sexuality License: Sexual Consent and a New Rape Shield Law. George Washington Law Review, 70, 51-162. Bain, L. M. (2010). The Failures of 'Shield Legislation': Sexual History Evidence, Feminism and the Law. Aberdeen Student Law Review, 1, 96-110. Browning, J. (2011). Digging for the Digital Dirt: Discovery and Use of Evidence from Social Media Sites. SMU Science& Technology Law Review, 14, 465-96. Capers, B. (2013). Real Women, Real Rape. UCLA Law Review, 60, 826-80. Capowski, J. J. (2012) China's Evidentiary and Procedural Reforms, the Federal Rules of Evidence, and the Harmonization of Civil and Common Law, Texas International Law Journal, 46, 455-502. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2015. Sexual Risk Behaviors: HIV, STD, & Teen Pregnancy Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/sexualbehaviors. Commonwealth v. Morgan, 2015 WL 9263617 8 (S.C. Penn. 2015). DaSilva, L. (2008). The Next Generation of Sexual Conduct: Expanding the Protective Reach of Rape Shield Laws to Include Evidence Found on Myspace. Suffolk Journal of Trial & Appellate Advocacy, 13, 211-30. Dewey, C. (2015 Apr. 28). The sexting scandal no one sees. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2015/04/28/the-sexting-scandal-no-one-sees. Diss, L. (2013). Whether You "Like" It or Not: The Inclusion of Social Media Evidence in Sexual Harassment Cases and How Courts Can Effectively Control It. Boston College Law Review, 54, 1841-80. Dublin Rape Crisis Centre. (1998). The Legal Process and Victims of Rape. Trinity College. Retrieved from http://www.drcc.ie/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/rapevic.pdf. Duggan, M. (2014). Online Harassment. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/10/22/online-harassment. EEOC v. Simply Storage Management, LLC., 270 F.R.D. 436 (S.D. Ind. 2010). eMarketer. (2016). Nearly One-Third of the World Will Use Social Networks Regularly This Year. eMarketer. Retrieved from https://www.emarketer.com/Article/Nearly-One-Third-of-World-Will-Use-Social-Networks-Regularly-This-Year/1014157. European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights. (2014). Violence Against Women: An EU-wide Survey. Retrieved from http://fra.europa.eu/sites/default/files/fra-2014-vaw-survey-main-results-apr14_en.pdf. Galvin, H.R. (1986). Shielding Rape Victims in the State and Federal Courts: A Proposal for the Second Decade. Minnesota Law Review, 70, 763-916. Goldstein, J. (2011). The Oldest Bench Ever. Slate. Retrieved from http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/2011/01/the_oldest_bench_ever.html. Guest v. Leis, 255 F.3d 325, 333 (6th Cir. 2001). Haynes, A. M. (2012). The Age of Consent: When Is Sexting No Longer "Speech Integral to Criminal Conduct"? Cornell Law Review, 97, 369-404. Hunt, E. (2016, Mar. 7). Online Harassment of Women at Risk of Becoming 'Established Norm', study finds. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/mar/08/online-harassment-of-women-at-risk-of-becoming-established-norm-study. Indian Express (2017, May 5). Nirbhaya Gangrape Case 2012: A Look at What All has Happened over the Years. Indian Express. Retrieved from http://indianexpress.com/article/india/nirbhaya-gangrape-case-2012-a-look-at-what-all-has-happened-over-the-years-4641418. In re K.W., 666 S.E.2d 490 (N.C. Ct. App. 2008). Janzen, S. (2015).Amending Rape Shield Laws: Outdated Statutes Fail to Protect Victims on Social Media, John Marshall Law Review, 48, 1113-18. Kennedy, J., et al. (2012). How Protected is she? Fairness and the Rape Victim Witness in Australia. Women's Studies International Forum, 35, 334-42. Koslow, S. (2013).Rape Shield Laws and the Social Media Revolution: Discoverability of Social Media-It's Social Not Private. Touro Law Review, 29, 844-58. Lenhart. A. (2015, Apr. 9). Teens, Social Media & Technology Overview 2015.Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/04/09/teens-social-media-technology-2015. Loewen, K. (2015). Rejecting the Purity Myth: Reforming Rape Shield Laws in the Age of Social Media, UCLA Women's Law Journal, 22, 151-66. Mackelprang v. Fidelity National Title Agency of Nevada, Inc., 2007 WL 119149 6 (D. Nev. 2007). Maggard, J. (2005). Courting Disaster: Re-Evaluating Rape Shields in Light of People v. Bryant, Ohio State Law Journal 66, 1354–55. Martinez-Prather, K., & Vandiver, D. M. (2014). Sexting Among Teenagers in the United States: A Retrospective Analysis of Identifying Motivating Factors, Potential Targets, and the Role of a Capable Guardian. International Journal of Cyber Criminology, 8(1), 21-35. McEwan, J. (2006). "I Thought She Consented": Defeat of the Rape Shield or the Defence that Shall Not Run? Criminal Law Review, 15-22. Montgomery v. Commonwealth, 320 S.W.3d 42 (Ky. 2010) Mummert, R. (2010). Sexting and the Law: How Lack of Reform in California Puts Teenagers in Jeopardy of Prosecution Under Child Pornography Laws Enacted to Protect Them. Western State University Law Review, 38, 71-92. People v. Collins, 186 N.E.2d 33 (Ill. 1962). People v. Johnson, 39 P. 622, 623 (Cal. 1895). Pepitone, J. (2014, Feb. 4). Scandalous Stats: Half of Adults' Phones Contain 'Sexting' Content. NBC News. Retrieved from http://www.nbcnews.com/tech/mobile/scandalous-stats-half-adults-phones-contain-sexting-content-n22121. Pesta, A. (2012, Oct. 10). 'Thanks for Ruining my Life'. Newsweek. Retrieved fromhttp://www.newsweek.com/thanks-ruining-my-life-63423. Pew Research Center. (2017). Social Media Fact Sheet. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheet/social-media. R. v A (Complainant's Sexual History),  H.R.L.R. 48 (U.K.). R v Seaboyer,  2 S.C.R. 577 (Canada). R v. T; R v. H,  All ER 683 (U.K.). R v. W,  Crim LR 965 (U.K.) Radacic, I., & Turkovic, K. (2010). Rethinking Croatian Rape Laws, in Rethinking Rape Law: International and Comparative Perspectives. London, England: Routledge. Rudstein, D. (1976). Rape Shield Laws: Some Constitutional Problems. William & Mary Law Review, 18, 14-46. S v. Zuma,  ZAKZHC 22 (South Africa). Salter, M. (2013). Justice and Revenge in Online Counter-publics: Emerging Responses to Sexual Violence in the Age of Social Media. Crime, Media, Culture: An International Journal, 9(3), 225-42. Scientific American. (2017). Sext Much? If so, You're not Alone. Scientific American. Retrieved from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/sext-much-if-so-youre-not-alone. Smith, R. (1997). Protecting the Victim: Rape and Sexual Harassment Shields Under Maine and Federal Law. Maine Law Review, 49, 443-513. Sullivan, C. (2015). Judges Know Nothing About Technology, Judge Says. FindLaw. Retrieved from http://blogs.findlaw.com/technologist/2015/07/judges-know-nothing-about-technology-judge-says.html. Sweeny, J. (2014a). Sexting and Freedom of Expression: A Comparative Approach. Kentucky Law Journal, 102, 103-46. Sweeny, J. (2014b). Undead Statutes: The Rise, Fall, and Continuing Uses of Adultery and Fornication Criminal Laws, Loyola University Chicago Law Journal, 46, 127-73. Suzuki, Y. (2016). Sexual Violence in Japan: Implications of the Lay Judge System on Victims of Sexual Violence. Journal of Law and Criminal Justice, 4(1), 77-80. State v. Sibley, 33 S.W. 167, 171 (Mo. 1895). Tanford, J. A., & Bocchino, A. J. (1980). Rape Victim Shield Laws and the Sixth Amendment. University of Pennsylvania Law Review, 128, 544-97. Tang, K. (1998). Rape Law Reform in Canada: The Success and Limits of Legislation, International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 42(3), 258-270. Thomson Reuters Foundation (2015). Character Evidence in Rape Trials. Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust, 7-25. Retrieved from http://www.trust.org/contentAsset/raw-data/7c70a653-6c85-4734-981b-72a1de7db614/file. Travis, A. (2017, Feb. 7). MP Proposes UK Rape Shield Law to Protect Victims in Court. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/feb/08/mp-proposes-uk-shield-law-to-protect-victims-in-court. UK Parliament. (2017). Sex Offences (Amendment) Bill 2016-17. Retrieved at http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2016-17/sexualoffencesamendment.html. Ward, S. F. (2007).MySpace Discovery, Lawyers are Mining Social Networks for Nuggets of Evidence. ABA Journal, 93, 34. Retrieved from http://www.abajournal.com/magazine/article/next. Winter, J. (2004).The Role of Gender in Judicial Decision-making: Similar Fact Evidence, the Rose West Trial and Beyond. International Journal of Evidence and Proof, 8(1), 31-46.