Ohio Supreme Court: Previous sexual activity protected under rape-shield law

Pictured is the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center where the Ohio Supreme Court meets. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons..

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled this week that previous sexual activity can’t be used as evidence against an accuser in rape cases.

In an opinion released Wednesday, the high court upheld the conviction of Cedric Jeffries, convicted of kidnapping and rape.

In the unanimous decision, the Supreme Court held that the state’s rape-shield law applies both to consensual and non-consensual sexual activity, and that the Eighth District Court of Appeals applied the law correctly.

In the case, Jeffries was accused of sexually abusing a 12-year-old repeatedly over the course of nine years, and Jeffries was indicted for kidnapping and raping the victim when she was 12 and again when she was 16. He was convicted and sentenced to 15 years to life and classified as a Tier III sex offender.

The Cuyahoga County Department of Children and Family Services investigated child abuse allegations against Jeffries and the court was allowed to review those records, which also included a report from the victim that another person had sexually assaulted her before and unrelated to the case.

The trial court deemed the incident to be protected under the rape-shield law and thus could not be used as evidence in Jeffries’ rape trial.

Defense for Jeffries argued the rape-shield law was “limited to protecting victims from being harassed about their consensual sexual history and therefore prior sexual assaults are outside the scope of protection,” according to court records.

“Jeffries contends that the clear purpose of the rape-shield law is limited to preventing ‘impermissible attacks on some Victorian-minded theory of promiscuity.’ He asserts that applying the rape-shield law to an accuser’s nonconsensual sexual activity does nothing to promote the purpose behind the law,” the justices said in their opinion. “We disagree.”

The Supreme Court said arguing that evidence of past sexual abuse isn’t protected under the rape-shield law “is to vastly underestimate the insidiousness of victim blaming.”

“Our holding that nonconsensual sexual activity is included in the meaning of ‘sexual activity’ in the rape-shield law furthers the fundamental purpose of the law,” the opinion stated.