Law Professor David Bryden discussed proposals for redefining rape Saturday at the Medical School. He proposed eliminating the requirement of proven physical force in rape cases.
The “force requirement” involves proving that a woman physically or verbally resisted the perpetrator during the attack. Bryden suggested substituting a rule in which the perpetrator must also observe physical signals of fear and distress.
There are cases in which a person is not able to resist and may freeze in fear. Signals such as crying and fear must also be taken into consideration by the attacker.
Bryden said that in the past rape was defined in narrow terms, but this changed in the mid-1970s with the rise of the modern feminist movement.
He said historically rape was defined as vaginal intercourse with a woman — not one’s wife — with force and without consent.
This ignored the problem of abuse from spousal rape. By marrying a woman gave up her right of consent to sex.
Bryden also discussed sex obtained by deception or extortion.
“It is open for debate as to what sorts of deception lead to sex,” Bryden said. Cases include phony gynecological exams and married men pretending to be single.
Rape by extortion means a woman is frightened into having sex against her will. This happens often in abusive relationships because the woman is constantly living in fear.
The seminar was required of medical students rotating through the Obstetrics and Gynecology service, and included OB/GYN faculty, residents and the public.
“It is thought-provoking even though it is not an area I know well,” said Linda Farmer, philosophy professor from St. Thomas University.
Farmer was particularly interested in the topic of rape under deception because it is an area that is so hard to define.
“This topic is not discussed enough. Abuse is pervasive in OB/GYN,” said Anastasia Koniaris, a third-year resident.
She said doctors must deal with sex abuse physically and emotionally. This was the first formal discussion on the subject she had attended.
Koniaris found Bryden’s information on distinguishing between force and consent interesting.
She said the victim is often the one thought to have a problem and may be thought of as having psychological problems or to have led the perpetrator on.
Bryden is currently working on an article to fundamentally change the definition of rape.