Women and Justice: Keywords

Domestic Case Law

State v. Rivera Supreme Court of Rhode Island (2010)

Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

A bus driver was convicted of sexually assaulting three developmentally disabled women, two of whom were passengers on the defendant’s bus route. On appeal, the defendant challenged his conviction on several grounds, one of which was that the trial court erred in precluding him from questioning the victim’s mother about a previous incident that suggested the victim was promiscuous. The court held that the defendant was not entitled to question the victim’s mother about the incident, because the defendant did not notify the trial justice beforehand of his intention to probe into the victim’s conduct or otherwise seek a hearing with the court about the admissibility of such evidence.

R. v. Mills Supreme Court of Canada (1999)

Sexual violence and rape

The Supreme Court of Canada upheld a recently enacted rape shield law. Mills, a defendant in a rape case, challenged the law, arguing it violated sections 7 and 11(d) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Supreme Court found that the law gave sufficient discrepancy to judges to ensure that the rights of a defendant in a rape case were not violated.


Sexual Assault - Prior sexual conduct of the complainant - Admissibility of Evidence (Title 11, Chapter 37, General Laws of Rhode Island)

Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

If a defendant who is charged with sexual assault intends to introduce evidence at trial that the victim has engaged in sexual activities with other persons, he or she must give prior notice to the court of the intention to introduce such evidence. The notice must be given orally and out of the hearing of any other spectators or jurors. Upon receiving such notice, the court must order the defendant to make a specific offer of the proof that he or she intends to introduce, and the court will rule on the admissibility of the evidence before it can be offered at trial. The purpose of this “rape shield” statute is to encourage victims to report crimes without fear of inviting unnecessary probing into the victim’s sexual history.