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THE RAPE SHIELD LAW The Rape Shield Law that limits the use of a victims prior sexual history as an attempt to undermine the credibility of the victims testimony supports Charles Nessons view of verdicts It supports Nessons views in the sense that verdicts are not about the evidence but rather by the event Furthermore the Rape Shield Law promotes public confidence in verdicts because the public especially rape victims are encouraged to report rape incidents Public confidence in verdicts is promoted a result of the Rape Shield Laws Prior to this law some courts restricted evidence of the victims sexual relations with men other than the defendant to testimony of general reputation Witnesses could be asked if the victim is known to be unchaste in the community Others allowed cross-examination and even direct evidence relating to specific unchaste acts Also when a woman took a stand the defense counsel could cross-examine her about the details of her past relations with other men In some States too evidence of past specific acts must be available not only for the purpose of being considered by the jury in deciding the weight and credibility of the victims testimony but for the purpose of inferring the probability of consent and discrediting her testimony A defendant would surely like that privilege however it is embarrassing and discourage women from reporting rape cases Susan Estrich The Shield Law 291 also informs us that a defendants knowledge of a womans sexual history would be relevant in determining his state of mind at the time of the intercourse whether he believed that she was consenting to his advances In this case one might say that the prejudice of the evidence of a womans sexual history exceeded its very probative value However with the prior rape law the admission of evidence of a womans sexual history was not limited to cases where the defendant himself knew his victims reputation
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