Rape-Shield Laws and Third-Party Defendants: Where Iowa's Laws Fall Short in Protecting Victims

Author:Jessica M. Donels
Position:J.D. Candidate, The University of Iowa College of Law, 2017; B.A., Loras College, 2014
Pages:793-823
SUMMARY

This Note looks at the historical and modern policy of several rape-shield rules at the federal and state level, and analyzes how well these rules protect victims in Iowa who decide to sue potentially liable third-parties, such as school districts. The development and application of the federal rapeshield rules indicates a strong policy of protecting victims from both invasions of privacy and... (see full summary)

 
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Rape-Shield Laws and Third-Party
Defendants: Where Iowa’s Laws Fall Short
in Protecting Victims
Jessica M. Donels*
ABSTRACT: This Note looks at the historical and modern policy of several
rape-shield rules at the federal and state level, and analyzes how well these
rules protect victims in Iowa who decide to sue potentially liable third-parties,
such as school districts. The development and application of the federal rape-
shield rules indicates a strong policy of protecting victims from both invasions
of privacy and threats to their well-being—while encouraging criminal
prosecution and lawsuits against those responsible—by removing factors that
might discourage them from seeking justice. An analysis of this dual policy
shows that the laws should apply equally to victims who sue their attacker
directly and those who sue potentially liable third-parties. Yet, under Iowa
law, victims suing third-parties fall into an uncertain loophole in the state’s
rape-shield rules, which has the potential to harm victims and discourage
important lawsuits. This Note proposes a solution that involves modifying
the Iowa rape-shield rules as they apply to discovery and adopting the federal
rape-shield rules as they apply to admissibility of evidence.
I. INTRODUCTION ............................................................................. 794
II. THE DEVELOPMENT AND APPLICATION OF IOWA AND FEDERAL
RAPE-SHIELD RULES TO CASES WITH THIRD-PARTY
DEFENDANTS ................................................................................. 797
A. THE HISTORY OF AND POLICY BEHIND THE FEDERAL
RAPE-SHIELD RULES ................................................................ 797
B. IOWA AND FEDERAL RULES GOVERNING DISCOVERY OF
SEXUAL-HISTORY EVIDENCE ..................................................... 798
C. IOWA AND FEDERAL RULES GOVERNING ADMISSIBILITY OF
SEXUAL-HISTORY EVIDENCE ..................................................... 801
* J.D. Candidate, The University of Iowa College of Law, 2017; B.A., Loras College, 2014.
Special Thanks to Tim Semelroth for assigning the research memo that inspired this Note, and
to the Iowa Law Review Vol. 102 Board for all of their assistance.
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794 IOWA LAW REVIEW [Vol. 102:793
III. THE NECESSITY OF APPLYING IOWAS RAPE-SHIELD RULES TO
LAWSUITS AGAINST THIRD-PARTY DEFENDANTS ........................... 803
A. THE POLICY INTERESTS IN PROTECTING VICTIMS IN DIRECT
SUITS AND SUITS AGAINST THIRD-PARTY DEFENDANTS ARE
IDENTICAL .............................................................................. 804
B. THE IMPORTANCE OF HOLDING THIRD-PARTY DEFENDANTS
ACCOUNTABLE JUSTIFIES LIMITING THE USE OF
SEXUAL-HISTORY EVIDENCE ..................................................... 809
IV. PRESENT FAILURE TO APPLY RAPE-SHIELD RULES TO LAWSUITS
AGAINST THIRD-PARTY DEFENDANTS: THE FRESHMAN
WRESTLER HYPOTHETICAL ........................................................... 811
A. THE FRESHMAN WRESTLERS SEXUAL-HISTORY EVIDENCE
UNDER THE IOWA RAPE-SHIELD RULES ..................................... 812
1. Discovery ........................................................................ 813
2. Admissibility of Evidence…………………………… 814
B. THE FRESHMAN WRESTLERS SEXUAL-HISTORY EVIDENCE
UNDER THE FEDERAL RAPE-SHIELD RULES ................................ 817
1. Discovery ........................................................................ 817
2. Admissibility of Evidence .............................................. 817
C. BROADER CONCERNS: PREMISES LIABILITY FOR THIRD-PARTY
TORTS .................................................................................... 819
V. THE SOLUTION: AMEND THE RULES ................................................. 820
A. AMENDING IOWAS RULES RELATING TO THE DISCOVERY OF
SEXUAL-HISTORY EVIDENCE: CLOSE THE LOOPHOLES ............... 820
B. AMENDING IOWAS RULES RELATING TO ADMISSIBILITY OF
SEXUAL-HISTORY EVIDENCE: AMEND, OR ADOPT THE FEDERAL
RULE ...................................................................................... 821
VI. CONCLUSION ................................................................................... 822
I. INTRODUCTION
Imagine a new freshman wrestler at the best wrestling high school in the
state. His coaches have achieved local-hero status, and his teammates—while
known as bullies and troublemakers—rule the school. Practice begins, and
every day the team has a 40-minute period of unsupervised time in the gym
before the coaches arrive. This seems great at first—the team can bond,
stretch, and practice some moves. But some of the freshman’s teammates have
a different plan. They have a “tradition” to carry out. One day, he sees two of
his teammates pin down another freshman, while a third pulls down his own
pants and assaults the struggling freshman. He wants to object, but there are
no adults around, and he certainly does not want to be next. Where were the

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