SAN FRANCISCO -- The California Supreme Court rejected pleas of feminist and some law-and-order groups Thursday by ruling that testimony about 'rape trauma syndrome' may not be used to prove a witness was raped.
The syndrome, first named in 1972, refers to a collection of symptoms commonly found in rape victims.
They include shock, self-blame, disorientation, nightmares and fear of retaliation.
The court ruled in two cases of convicted rapists, William McKee Bledsoe of Orange County in Southern California, and Dexter Stanley of Los Angeles. In both of their trials, the judge allowed testimony about the syndrome by psychological counselors.
In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court said the testimony should not have been admitted. However, the court upheld the convictions because it said the evidence was 'very strong.'
The syndrome issue has divided courts in five states and surfaced in a number of California cases. Admissibility of the syndrome was urged before the California court by the attorney general's office and the California Women Lawyers Association.
Justice Otto Kaus, writing for the court, said the syndrome concept was developed as a therapeutic tool rather than as a means of determining whether in fact a rape had occurred.
Rape counselors do not probe inconsistencies in their clients' stories and do not investigate the facts independently, he said.
'We conclude that expert testimony that a complaining witness suffers from rape trauma syndrome is not admissible to prove that the witness was raped,' Kaus wrote.