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Changing Political Opportunity: The Anti-Rape Movement and Public Policy

  • Janet C. Gornick (a1) and David S. Meyer (a1)

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Both the legal definition of rape and the social responses to it have changed dramatically over the last twenty-five years. The sorts of assaults classified as criminal, the willingness of women who have been raped to turn to the criminal justice system, the rules of prosecution, and the penalties imposed on those found guilty have all been the explicit subjects of public debates initiated in the early 1970s by activists who broke the silence of earlier decades. Activists' engagement with the policy process throughout the 1970s altered institutions and policy at the local, state, and federal levels, and also affected the development and claims of the broader women's movement.

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References

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Notes

1. Eisinger, Peter K., “The Conditions of Protest Behavior in American Cities,” American Political Science Review 67 (1973): 1128; Kitschelt, Herbert P., “Political Opportunity Structures and Political Protest: Anti-Nuclear Movements in Four Democracies,” British Journal of Political Science 16 (1986): 5785; McAdam, Doug, Political Process and the Development of Black Insurgency (Chicago, 1982); Rucht, Dieter, “Campaigns, Skirmishes, and Battles: Anti-Nuclear Movements in the USA, France, and West Germany,” Industrial Crisis Quarterly 49 (1990): 193222; Tarrow, Sidney, Power in Movement (New York, 1994); Tilly, Charles, From Mobilization to Revolution (Reading, Mass., 1978).

2. Tarrow, Power in Movement, 85.

3. Gamson, William A. and Meyer, David S., “Framing Political Opportunity,” in McAdam, Doug, McCarthy, John, and Zald, Mayer, eds., Comparative Perspectives on Social Movements: Political Opportunities, Mobilizing Structures, and Cultural Framings (Cambridge, 1996), 275–90.

4. Costain, Anne N., Inviting Women's Rebellion (Baltimore, 1992); Imig, Douglas R. and Meyer, David S., “Political Opportunity and Peace and Justice Advocacy in the 1980s: A Tale of Two Sectors,” Social Science Quarterly 74 (1993): 750–70; McAdam, Political Process; Meyer, David S., “Protest Cycles and Political Process: American Peace Movements in the Nuclear Age,” Political Research Quarterly 46 (1993): 451–79.

5. Baumgartner, Frank R. and Jones, Bryan D., Agendas and Instability in American Politics (Chicago, 1993), 8889.

6. Jones, Bryan D., Reconceiving Decision-Making in Democratic Politics: Attention, Choice, and Public Policy (Chicago, 1994), 103–30.

7. Costain, Inviting Women's Rebellion.

8. Piven, Frances Fox and Cloward, Richard A., Poor People's Movements (New York, 1979).

9. Ibid., 28.

10. Kingdon, John W., Agendas, Alternatives, and Public Policies, 2d ed. (New York, 1995).

11. Stone, Deborah, Policy Paradox and Political Reason (Boston, 1988).

12. Baumgartner and Jones, Agendas and Instability.

13. Gelb, Joyce and Palley, Marian Lief, Women and Public Policies (Princeton, 1982).

14. Baumgartner and Jones, Agendas and Instability.

15. Meyer, , “Protest Cycles;” Schattschneider, E. E., The Semi-Sovereign People (New York, 1960).

16. Costain, Inviting Women's Rebellion; McAdam, Political Process; Jenkins, Craig J. and Eckert, Craig M., “Channeling Black Insurgency: Elite Patronage and Professional Social Movement Organizations in the Development of the Black Movement,” American Sociological Review 51 (1986): 812–29.

17. Mansbridge, Jane J., Why We Lost the ERA (Chicago, 1986).

18. Meyer, David S. and Rochon, Thomas R., “Toward a Coalitional Theory of Social and Political Movements,” in Rochon, and Meyer, , eds., Coalitions and Political Movements: The Lessons of the Nuclear Freeze (Boulder, Colo., 1997), 237–51.

19. Baumgartner and Jones, Agendas and Instability; Meyer, “Protest Cycles;” Nelson, Barbara J., Malting an Issue of Child Abuse (Chicago, 1984).

20. Downs, Anthony, “Up and Down with Ecology: ‘The Issue Attention Cycle,’The Public Interest 28 (Summer 1972): 3850.

21. Hirschman, Albert O., Shifting Involvements: Private Interest and Public Action (Princeton, 1982).

22. Our approach extends Kingdon's Agendas, Alternatives, and Public Policies metaphor about policy formation and applies it to political mobilization.

23. U.S. Department of Commerce, selected volumes, Statistical Abstract of the United States: The National Data Book (Washington, D.C., 1965–95).

24. Carrow, Deborah, Rape: Guidelines for a Community Response: An Executive Summary (Washington, D.C., 1980), 12. It is not clear that the reported rape rate is an accurate or consistent measure of the prevalence of the crime. It is difficult to determine, for example, whether the increased reported rate reflected more rapes or the increased willingness of women to report rape. See, for example, Marsh, Jeanne C., Geist, Alison, and Caplan, Nathan, Rape and the Limits of Law Reform (Boston, 1982); Galvin, Jim, “Rape: A Decade of Reform,” Crime and Delinquency 31 (1985): 163–68; Jensen, Gary F. and Karpos, Mary Altani, “Managing Rape: Exploratory Research on the Behavior of Rape Statistics,” Criminology 31 (1993): 363–85.

25. Stone, Making an Issue, 144.

26. Freeman, Jo, “Introduction,” in Freeman, Jo, ed., Social Movements of the Sixties and Seventies (New York, 1983), 115.

27. Meyer, David S. and Whittier, Nancy, “Social Movement Spillover,” Social Problems 41 (1994) 2: 277–98.

28. Dressier, Joshua, Understanding Criminal Law (New York, 1987), 1617.

29. Feminist reformers criticized aspects of the MPC's proposed rape laws. The MPC automatically downgraded the crime when there was a prior relationship between a woman and the rapist and required a “fresh complaint” of rape to be made within three months of the incident in order to prosecute. See Estrich, Susan, Real Rape (Cambridge, Mass., 1987): 4954.

30. Evans, Sara, Personal Politics (New York, 1979); Ferree, Myra Marx and Hess, Beth B., Controversy and Coalition: The New Feminist Movement (Boston, 1985), chap. 3.

31. On the role of emotion in these groups, and in movements more generally, see Taylor, Verta, “Watching for Vibes: Bringing Emotions into the Study of Feminist Organizations,” in Ferree, Myra Marx and Martin, Patricia Yancey, eds., Feminist Organizations: Harvest of the New Women's Movement (Philadelphia, 1995), 223–33.

32. Csida, June Bundy and Csida, Joseph, Rape: How to Avoid It and What to Do About It If You Can't (Chatsworth, Calif., 1974), 133–34.

33. Staggenborg, Suzanne, The Pro-Choice Movement (New York, 1991).

34. Largen, Mary Ann, “The Anti-Rape Movement: Past and Present,” in Burgess, Ann Wolbert, ed., Rape and Sexual Assault (New York, 1985), 113; Csida and Csida, Rape: How to Avoid It, 134; New York Radical Feminists, Rape: The First Sourcebook for Women (New York, 1974).

35. Estrich, Real Rape; Fairstein, Linda A., Sexual Violence: Our War Against Rape (New York, 1993); Marsh, Geist, and Caplan, Rape and the Limits of Law Reform; Spohn, Cassia and Horney, Julie, Rape Law Reform: A Grassroots Revolution and its Impact (New York, 1992).

36. NYRF, Rape, appendix IV.

37. BenDor, Jan, “Ending Rape: A Concept Essay on Strategies,” Aegis: Magazine on Ending Violence Against Women (Summer 1981): 3134; Gornick, Janet, Burt, Martha, and Pittman, Karen, “Structure and Activities of Rape Crisis Centers in the Early 1980s,” Crime and Delinquency 31 (1985): 247–68; Largen, Mary Ann, “History of Women's Movement in Changing Attitudes, Laws, and Treatment Toward Rape Victims,” in Walker, Marcia J. and Brodsky, Stanley L., eds., Sexual Assault: The Victim and the Rapist (Lexington, Mass., 1976): 6973; idem, “Grassroots Centers and National Task Forces,” Aegis: Magazine on Ending Violence Against Women 32 (1981): 46–51; Matthews, Nancy Anne, Confronting Rape: The Feminist Anti-Rape Movement and the State (New York, 1994).

38. Brodyaga, Lisa, Gates, Margaret, Singer, Susan, Tucker, Mama, and White, Richardson, Rape and Its Victims: A Report for Citizens, Health Facilities, and Criminal Justice Agencies (Washington, D.C., 1975).

39. Gornick, Burt, and Pittman, “Structure and Activities of Rape Crisis Centers,” 247–68.

40. In writing about the student movement of the 1960s, Breines, Wini, Community and Organization in the New Left, 2d ed. (New Brunswick, N.J., 1989), calls this process of connecting ends and means in microcosm, “prefigurative” politics. The movement against violence against women valued this practice highly.

41. Brodyaga et al., Rape and its Victims; Gornick, Burt, and Pittman, “Structure and Activities of Rape Crisis Centers,” 247–68; Largen, “Grassrots Centers,” 46–51; Matthews, Confronting Rape.

42. Largen, “Grassroots Centers,” 46–51.

43. Bergmann, Barbara R., The Economic Emergence of Women (New York, 1986).

44. Largen, “Anti-Rape Movement.”

45. Brownmiller, Susan, Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape (New York, 1975).

46. Pfaff, Myrene G., “Impressions of a March,” Newsletter of the Feminist Alliance Against Rape and the National Communications Network (July/August, 1978): 4.

47. The New York Times Index (New York, 1960–80), for all its problems, provides a reasonable measure of mainstream attention to a broad range of issues, and as such is used by scholars of social movements and public policy, e.g., Baumgartner and Jones, Agendas and Instability; Costain, Inviting Women's Rebellion; Jenkins and Eckert, “Channeling”; McAdam, Political Process; Meyer, David S., A Winter of Discontent: The Nuclear Freeze and American Politics (New York, 1990); Nelson, Making an Issue. We counted all of the abstracts under the heading “sex crimes” (there is no category for “rape”), omitting those entries that referred specifically to individual crimes such as reports of attacks, arrests, or the progress of specific trials. What remains, aggregated and presented in Figure 2, includes reports of: (1) legal and policy events (discussions of legislation and administrative policy developments); (2) activist events (including protests, campaigns, and organizational news); (3) relevant research; and (4) cultural events (reviews of books, films, and television movies, and subsequent discussions of those products).

48. New York Times, 21 February 1974.

49. Blair, Ian, Investigating Rape: A New Approach for Police (Dover, N.H., 1985); Brodyaga et al., Rape and Its Victims; Carrow, Rape: Guidelines, 1–2; Largen, “Grassroots Centers,” 46–51; Marsh, Geist, and Caplan, Rape and the Limits of Law Reform; Spohn and Horney, Rape Law Reform.

50. There is a broad consensus that the reforms initiated in localities across the country—in hospitals, police departments, and prosecutors' offices—were brought about largely by the efforts of anti-rape activists. For example, two national studies commissioned by the U.S. Department of Justice reached this conclusion. In a study of local responses to rape, completed for the LEAA, Brodyaga et al., Rape and Its Victims, xi, found that:

Much of the recent attention has been stimulated by citizens concerned with equalizing the status of women. The women's movement has often focused on the inequities inflicted upon victims of rape.… Citizens' activities to increase public awareness of these problems have brought about efforts to … improve medical treatment for rape victims, and to encourage police departments and prosecutors' offices to examine their procedures in the investigation and prosecution of rape cases.

Similarly, at the end of the decade, Carrow (Rape: Guidelines, 1–2) reported to the National Institute of Justice that:

The early 1970s marked the beginning of a change in the treatment of rape incidents. … At the forefront of this changing perspective was the rape crisis center. As the offspring of the feminist movement, these centers hellip; have provided the impetus for improved hospital procedures. … Police and prosecutors … have instituted procedural and policy reforms reflecting this emphasis.

51. Matthews, Confronting Rape.

52. Largen, “Grassroots Centers,” 47–48.

53. Csida and Csida, Rape: How to Avoid It; Largen, “Anti-Rape Movement,” 1–13; Scott, Ellen Kaye, “How to Stop the Rapists? A Question of Strategy in Two Rape Crisis Centers,” Social Problems 40 (August 1993): 343–61.

54. Largen, “Anti-Rape Movement.”

55. Brodyaga et al., Rape and Its Victims, 55.

56. Carrow, Rape: Guidelines.

57. Brodyaga et al., Rape and Its Victims; Law, Battelle and Justice Study Center, Forcible Rape: A National Survey of the Response by Police, vol. 1 (Washington, D.C., 1977); idem, Forcible Rape: A National Survey of the Response by Prosecutors, vol. 1 (Washington, D.C., 1977); Carrow, Rape: Guidelines; Fairstein, Sexual Violence.

58. Battelle Law and Justice Study Center, Police, 46.

59. Battelle Law and Justice Study Center, Prosecutors, 30.

60. Fairstein, Sexual Violence.

61. Largen, Mary Ann, “Rape-Law Reform: An Analysis,” in Burgess, Ann Wolbert, ed., Rape and Sexual Assault II (New York, 1988), 271–92.

62. Estrich, Real Rape; Fairstein, Sexual Violence; National Institute of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice, Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (U.S. Dept. of Justice), Forcible Rape: An Analysis of Legal Issues (Washington, D.C., 1978); Spohn and Horney, Rape Law Reform.

63. Bienen, Leigh, “Rape III: National Developments in Rape Reform Legislation,” Women's Rights Law Reporter 6 (1980): 171212. We coded a state as having reformed its law in a given year if its legislature passed one or more changes to the state's rape law during that year.

64. Bienen, Leigh, “Rape I,Women's Rights Law Reporter 3 (December 1976): 4557; Bienen, Leigh, “Rape II,” Women's Rights Law Reporter 3 (1977): 90137; Bienen, “Rape III,” 171–212; Dean, Charles W. and deBruyn-Kops, Mary, The Crime and the Consequences of Rape (Springfield, Ill., 1982); Dixon, Jo, “Feminist Reforms of Sexual Coercion Laws,” in Grauerholz, Elizabeth and Koralewski, Mary A., eds., Sexual Coercion: A Sourcebook on Its Nature, Causes, and Prevention (Lexington, Mass., 1991), 161–71; Dressier, Understanding Criminal Law; Estrich, Real Rape; Galvin, “Rape,” 163–68; Largen, “Rape Law Reform,” 271–92; Marsh, Geist, and Caplan, Rape and the Limits of Law Reform; National Institute of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice, Forcible; Horney, Julie and Spohn, Cassia, “Rape Law Reform and Instrumental Change in Six Urban Jurisdictions,” Law and Society Review 25 (1991): 117–53.

65. Largen, “Rape Law Reform,” 274.

66. Horney and Spohn, “Reform,” 117–18.

67. Estrich, Real Rape; Marsh, Geist, and Caplan, Rape and the Limits of Law Reform.

68. Largen, “History of Women's Movement,” 69–73.

69. Lystad, Mary Hanemann, “The National Center for the Prevention and Control of Rape,” in Burgess, Ann Wolbert, ed., Rape and Sexual Assault (New York, 1985), 14.

70. Myhre, Donna and Capps, Mary, “Conferences We Have Known,” Aegis: Magazine on Ending Violence Against Women (Summer 1981): 3536.

71. Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, Sixth Annual Report of LEAA (Washington D.C., 1974); Matthews, Confronting Rape; National Center for the Prevention and Control of Rape, Federal Funding Resources: Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence (Washington, D.C., 1979).

72. NCPCR, Federal Funding Resources, 2.

73. Myhre and Capps, “Conferences,” 35.

74. MacMillan, Jackie, “LEAA Research—East,” Aegis: Magazine on Ending Violence Against Women (Summer 1981): 3941.

75. Carrow, Rape: Guidelines; Gornick, Burt, and Pittman, “Structure and Activities of Rape Crisis Centers,” 247–68; Largen, “Grassroots Centers,” 46–51.

76. Steven Rathgeb Smith and Michael Lipsky, Non-Profits for Hire: The Welfare State in the Age of Contracting (Cambridge, Mass., 1993), in a careful study of nonprofit organizations, document the transforming effects that public monies have on the organizational structure, and ultimately missions, of nonprofits.

77. Brodyaga et al., Rape and Its Victims; Gornick, Burt, and Pittman, “Structure and Activities of Rape Crisis Centers.”

78. Matthews, Confronting Rape.

79. Largen, “Anti-Rape Movement.”

80. Burt, Martha, Gornick, Janet, and Pittman, Karen, “Feminism and Rape Crisis Centers,” Sexual Coercion and Assault 2 (1984): 813.

81. Carrow, Rape: Guidelines, 7.

82. Gornick, Burt, and Pittman, “Structure and Activities of Rape Crisis Centers,” 250.

83. Largen, “Grassroots Centers,” 50.

84. Ibid.

85. Brodyaga et al., Rape and Its Victims, 137.

86. Matthews, Confronting Rape.

87. New York Times, 5 August 1976.

88. New York Times, 22 August 1976.

89. Matthews, Confronting Rape.

90. Largen, “Grassroots Centers,” 46–51; Matthews, Confronting Rape.

91. Gornick, Burt, and Pittman, “Structure and Activities of Rape Crisis Centers.”

92. U.S. Department of Justice, First Annual Report of the Justice improvement Act Agencies (Washington, D.C., 1980).

93. Whittier, Nancy, Feminist Generations: The Persistence of the Radical Women's Movement (Philadelphia, 1995).

94. Notable in Figure 2 is a second peak near the end of the 1970s, reflecting the emergence of a new issue in the “sex crimes” category, marital rape. The 1978 Rideout case marked the emergence of marital rape in the public debate on rape; see also Cuklanz, Lisa M., Rape on Trial: How the Mass Media Construct Legal Reform and Social Change (Philadelphia, 1995). More important, the emergence of marital rape as a public issue signaled a shift in public attention toward domestic violence, and away from violence against women occurring outside the home, including rape. Activists reframed their claims about rape in response to these changes.

95. Matthews, Confronting Rape.

96. Lowi, Theodore J., The Politics of Disorder (New York, 1971); Piven and Cloward, Poor People's Movements, 28; Meyer, David S. and Tarrow, Sidney, eds., The Social Movement Society: Contentious Politics for a New Century (Boulder, Colo., 1998).

97. McAdam, Doug, “Biographical Consequences of Activism,” American Sociological Review 54 (1989): 744–60; Meyer and Whittier, “Spillover.”

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