Theses Master's

Injustice by Design: Voluntary Intoxication in American Sexual Assault Legislation

McCathey Morton, Sarah

This research projects finds that, as of 2022, twenty-nine of the fifty-one American jurisdictions analyzed (all fifty states and the District of Columbia) allow their courts to treat voluntary intoxication as an invitation to rape. This is due to the fact that, in the criminal justice system, there is a tendency to conflate the perceived decorum of the victim with the innocence or guilt of the perpetrator. This tendency produces a systemic failure to provide equal justice under the law to women who fall outside of the bounds of societal codes of propriety.

This thesis demonstrates how, within current laws, there remain vestiges of the ancient objectives of rape laws, which were to protect women only insofar as they represented the violation of men’s property. These sexual assault laws then interact with current societal rape myths and prejudices in ways that reinforce these biases and, in turn, perpetuate their inclusion in legal processes. This research finally demonstrates the ways in which the inconsistencies in states’ laws and court decisions yield large inequities between the fifty-one jurisdictions and the ways they endeavor to protect victims of rape who voluntarily consume alcohol.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Institute for the Study of Human Rights
Thesis Advisors
Nathan, Andrew J.
B.A., Columbia University
Published Here
August 10, 2022