Historical Development of the Offence of Rape

Sexual assault is unlike any other crime. Most perpetrators are male. Most incidents go unreported, and, when charges are laid, the resulting trial often focuses on the character and motivation of the complainant rather than the conduct of the person accused of the crime. In this article, the author traces through the historical, social and legal underpinnings of the offence of rape, and then examines the tension that has developed between a judiciary that seeks to protect accused persons against false accusations, and legislators who seek to protect the public from this insidious crime.