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Case of Unrealistic Expectations: The Impact of Rape Reform Legislation in Illinois

NCJ Number
Criminal Justice Policy Review Volume: 4 Issue: 1 Dated: (1990) Pages: 1-18
Date Published
18 pages
This study uses time-series analysis to examine the effects of Illinois' rape law reform on rape reports and on the outcomes of approximately 6,000 rape cases filed in Cook County Circuit Court from 1970 to 1985.
There have been two major reforms of the Illinois rape laws. A rape shield law was implemented on July 1, 1978, and definitional changes went into effect on January 4, 1984. The rape shield law states that the prior sexual activity or reputation of the victim is inadmissible as evidence. The only exception to this blanket prohibition is evidence concerning prior sexual conduct between the victim and the defendant. The 1984 law defines sexual assault as forcible sexual penetration and sexual abuse as forcible sexual contact. The statute provides for a consent defense; however, the law also eliminates the resistance requirement by deleting the phrase "against her will" from the definition of sexual assault and by stating that lack of resistance that results from the use of force or threat of force does not constitute consent. To test the effects of the law, this study used an interrupted time-series design to evaluate the effect of the reforms on rape reports and on filings, convictions, and sentences for rape in six jurisdictions. Interviews were conducted with 32 judges, State's attorneys, and public defenders in Cook County to determine attitudes toward the Illinois reforms. Findings indicate that the rape shield law did not result in an increase in the number of rape reports, and it had no impact on the indictment rate, conviction rate, or incarceration rate. Respondents believe rape cases are taken more seriously under the law, and rape victims are treated more humanely. Possible reasons for the findings are discussed. 3 figures, 4 tables, 2 notes, and a 12-item bibliography

Date Published: January 1, 1990