New Criminal Law Review
Rape and Sexual Assault Education: Where is the Law?
Carol Withey


This article considers the effectiveness of rape awareness programs in reducing or preventing instances of rape. There is a plethora of existing research, which is briefly considered. Research in this area is usually based on the assumption that behavioral change requires a corresponding change in attitudes toward sexual behavior and rape. For this reason most research analyzes the effect of rape awareness programs on attitudinal change. It will be argued that rape prevention research needs to be approached from a different angle, and should consider whether individual sexual behavior can change in the absence of altered attitudes. Te premise here is that a sound knowledge of rape law may itself affect behavior. Tis is based on the empowering nature of knowledge, which may legitimize female sexual choices and deter men from offending behavior, even if rape myth acceptance remains. Tis perspective necessitates a shift in program content, where the focus is placed on the law governing rape. Te article considers recent research conducted from this alternative perspective and assesses the impact of the program on legal knowledge and sexual behavior. Te article concludes with a consideration of current efforts in the United Kingdom to tackle the prevention problem and offers suggestions for improving the content of rape awareness programs.

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