National Clearinghouse on Marital and Date Rape
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Reasons Why Law Students Do and Would Enjoy Working as Volunteer Interns at the National Clearinghouse on Marital and Date Rape / Women's History Research Center (Berkeley)

To meet and work with the pioneers who put together (1968-1974) the Women and Law collection and published it on 40 reels of microfilm. The newspaper articles and other contents of the reel on rape were used constantly by Susan Brownmiller for the classic book Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape. Law students use the Women and Law microfilms in 400 libraries in 14 countries, including UC Berkeley, Stanford, Sacramento State, and San Jose State (among the attorneys on the board of the Center was Boalt professor Leo Kanowitz, author of the early text, Women and the Law: the Unfinished Revolution.)

To meet and work with the founders of the oldest women's center in the country. This Center became the first refuge the U.S. The Center printed the first interviews with rape survivors and battered women in their 1969 publication (the country's only women's liberation national newsletter) and in It Ain't Me, Babe, the first women's liberation newspaper (1970).

To work and connect with the people who have been specifically campaigning to stop marital, date and cohabitant rape in this country and many others for 20 years. The director of the Clearinghouse, Laura X, coordinated the first successful campaign to criminalize martial rape in California in 1979, and has gone on to work with 44 state campaigns, with the federal campaign, and with the campaign in Puerto Rico and other countries.

To follow up on conferences and seminars that the Clearinghouse has put on for 17 years for judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys (for rape survivors and battered women), family lawyers, constitutional lawyers, law enforcement personnel, attorneys general, governors' offices and legislators.

To continue networking with the contacts made from the workshops the Clearinghouse put on at the National Women and Law Conference. This conference, organized by law students, invited the Clearinghouse Director to provide workshops at the annual meetings.

To continue the outreach program of the Clearinghouse to other law students. Law students, professors, and deans have recognized the value of the Clearinghouse's work by inviting the director to speak and be in residency at NYU, University of Minnesota, University of Michigan, Syracuse, Cal Western, John Marshall, Cornell, Brooklyn, University of Chicago, Lewis and Clark, and others.

To develop an understanding of the way which individuals can use the court system to bring about social justice for women raped within relationships. The Clearinghouse has worked with major cases at the appellate and high court levels in Alabama, Missouri, Minnesota, Florida, Georgia, Nebraska, and New York, all of which were successful. The Clearinghouse has also worked on lower court cases of prosecution of marital rapists and women who have injured their marital rapists.

To use the unique material as well as the people resources of the Clearinghouse for their own research as well as for referrals to attorneys, rape survivors and other experts in the areas of sexual assault and woman battering.

To assist attorneys and law students, legislators, rape survivors and others in finding strategies and documents for their cases and legislative efforts (Individuals and organizations engage the services of the Clearinghouse primarily by phone.)

Law Students' Work At and With the
National Clearinghouse on Marital and Date Rape

~ Catherine MacKinnon came from Yale as a law student in the 70s to work as an intern at the Women's History Library. We were soon privileged to go over some of the galley proofs of her definitive Sexual Harassment of Working Women.

~ Susan Barry, a USF law student, worked with us during the Clearinghouse campaign to give wives in California the right to consent even in marriage. She wrote the first piece on marital rape ever published in the ABA Journal (September 1980.)

~ That same month, The Student Lawyer’s article on marital rape was the write-up for the country's first forum on marital rape produced by a Clearinghouse affiliate attorney for the New York County Lawyers Association. Around that time the director's talk at Brooklyn Law School inspired a debate between law student Ronda Birnbaum and a New York Assistant Attorney General about the potential use of the equal protection argument wives vs. non-wives. It was her argument that we used via the Center for Constitutional Rights (along with Clearinghouse director's 13th Amendment argument) in an amicus curiae brief before the highest court in New York. That court did use our equal protection argument and struck the marital rape exemption down as unconstitutional denial of equal protection (Liberta).

~ Law students come from all over the country as well as the Bay Area as interns to help in research, campaign organizing, and strategizing around legislation to repeal the exemptions from prosecution for date / cohabitant and marital rapists.

The documents in the Clearinghouse files are not obtainable elsewhere. Research into lower court cases has information which is sealed 30 days after sentencing, and indeed never appears in law journals, because most of the cases are not appealed. The newspaper clippings from nearly a thousand urban and rural papers on all forms of sexual assault can not be found in microfilm or computer formats, with the exception of a few major papers. Those papers very often don't even mention reports of rape incidents. Analyzing and following up on the cases is often of particular interest to law students. Every law review article on marital rape, and many on rape in the past 15 years, has used Clearinghouse resources.

Some of the campaigns this year include one in California to extend equal protection to wives who are legally unable to give consent due to intoxication (even if the husband did not administer the alcohol), and also to wives who request that a condom be used when their husband starts to force sex on them.

The Clearinghouse is the only source of accurate and up-to-date information about the status of exemptions in the rape laws. There is no attorney in this country who considers her or himself an expert on marital, cohabitant, or date rape laws.

Practical plus: The Clearinghouse is open, due to its national focus, from 5:00 in the morning until 9:00 at night weekdays/weekends. this gives law students a wide range of schedule choices to enhance their public interest careers by working at the Clearinghouse while also working in places where there are staff attorneys providing supervision for credit. There's no minimum amount of hours nor a minimum duration, and law students are especially welcome because of the healthy sense of injustice they bring to the Clearinghouse work year-round.

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