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Changes Pending to the Way the Law Looks at Sexual Assault

Here’s some encouraging news for your Wednesday. A pair of law professors from NYU (one male, one female) have recently been tapped to review and recommend changes to the United States’ Model Penal Code (MPC) and military justice code with respect to sexual assault related offenses.

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For those of you who are non-lawyers, the purpose of the MPC is to stimulate and assist legislatures in understanding and analyzing criminal laws. Since its was first adopted in 1962, the MPC has played an important part in the widespread revision and codification of the substantive criminal law of the United States.

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However, attitudes about sex, sexuality and the rights of women are (thankfully) vastly different today than they were in 1962. Professor Stephen Schulhofer, an expert on criminal justice, and author of Unwanted Sex: The Culture of Intimidation and the Failure of Law, says “I realized that the law had to be rethought in order to focus on sexual autonomy, which is freedom of choice, rather than just violence.”

Schulhofer, as the ALI project’s reporter, and Murphy, the associate reporter, presented a draft of their revised code at the ALI’s annual meeting in May, and they aim to submit a final draft in May 2016. Their current revision shifts the definition of sexual assault away from an undue emphasis on physical force and toward the idea that the fundamental criminal conduct in a sexual assault is disregard for a person’s freely expressed consent.

Here’s hoping that the recommendations usher in a wave of reforms, both legislative and cultural, across the nation.

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