Journal article Open Access

Sexting as 'Sexual Behavior' Under Rape Shield Laws

Sweeny, JoAnne; Slack, John

Editor(s)
Jaishankar, K

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.
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