Rape shield laws and sexual behavior evidence: effects of consent level and women's sexual history on rape allegations.

Rape shield laws, which limit the introduction of sexual history evidence in rape trials, challenge the view that women with extensive sexual histories more frequently fabricate charges of rape than other women. The present study examined the relationship between women’s actual sexual history and their reporting rape in hypothetical scenarios. Female participants (college students and a community sample, which included women working as prostitutes and topless dancers, and women living in a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center) imagined themselves in dating scenarios that described either a legally definable act of rape or consensual sexual intercourse. Additionally, within the rape scenarios, level of consensual intimate contact (i.e., foreplay) preceding rape was examined to determine its influence on rape reporting. Women were less likely to say that they would take legal action in response to the rape scenarios if they had extensive sexual histories, or if they had consented to an extensive amount of intimate contact before the rape. In response to the consensual sexual intercourse scenarios, women with more extensive sexual histories were not more likely to say that they would report rape, even when the scenario provided them with a motive for seeking revenge against their dating partner.