Golden Gate University Law Review


This paper will attempt to show the criminal law has permitted homicide when committed in order to prevent crimes which threaten harm so severe and permanent as to be incapable of repair through subsequent legal proceedings. Rape has consistently been regarded as such a crime. The paper will identify the interests which rape has been seen to threaten as those interests which derive their significance from a social system in which women are the property of men. It will argue that, to the extent changing social values have reduced the significance of those interests, they are no longer adequate to support the privilege of homicidal self-defense against rape. To evaluate the current legitimacy of the rule, it is necessary to identify the harm of rape in the modern social context and to decide whether that harm is irreparable. This paper will attempt to identify at least some of the interests threatened by rape and to show how the deprivation of those interests might be irreparable, so as to justify a continuing privilege of homicidal self-defense.