Monday, February 23, 2015

XXII

Tonight I'd like to blog about a seemingly controversial issue in the domain of sexual-based offenses: consent. While I have not been blogging recently, I've recently reopened my account on Yahoo! Answers and stumbled across the following question:

Hopefully the text is readable. This question is still live and has had over twenty answers, including mine. I was disgusted, however, to see that some people (mostly, if not all men) have posted responses detailing why she was NOT raped and that her lack of struggle and surrounding circumstances all implied that she wanted to have sex with him. Here are some examples of the responses I read:
  1. "I wouldn't consider that rape because it sounds like you didn't object very much. You said no, but you let him continue. He didn't force you, he didn't threaten you and you let yourself be persuaded. And then you had sex with him additional times. But you were right to break up with him because he was disrespectful."
  2. "NO, this is NOT rape. Rape means that you were FORCED to do something you didn't want to do. That doesn't seem to have been the case here. You could have pulled away when he started to enter you, but you admit that you didn't. Bottom line, if you don't want to do something you might regret, then don't put yourself in a positIon where you might be tempted, such as ENGAGING IN SEXUAL ACTIVITY WITH YOUR BOYFRIEND IN HIS CAR. The guy might have been a douchebag, but judging by your description of what happened, this was not rape. Take responsibility for your actions. "
  3. "Then why did you had sex with him. This is not consider raping... "
  4. "Shouldn't have led him on to be honest, you don't go that far and be like "no i don't want to have sex". You have only yourself to blame. "
  5. "you provoked it. blame yourself "
  6. "No not if you had sex with him again later"
RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) posted this article on what "rape" actually means and what defines consent. The link is here if you want to read more, but here it is paraphrased:
  1. If you're not old enough or mentally incapacitated in some way, it's rape.
  2. If you say "no" or "stop" even AFTER sex has been initiated, and your partner keeps going, it's rape.
It also goes on to answer common concerns such as what happens if you don't physically resist, what happens if the perpetrator was your significant other, and so on.

This next quote is actually straight from the Utah Criminal Code. I picked it specifically because the girl states that her boyfriend told her he would not have sex with her, but did anyway, a situation that would easily meet the terms of this statute:

"Without consent means (whether or not the victim is married to the actor):
...The actor is able to overcome the victim through concealment or by the element of surprise."

Victims are constantly blamed and picked at, making the trauma of a sexual attack exponentially worse. If you'll remember from my previous post, a police officer up in Bellingham did everything but outright tell me I was lying because it was "hard" to pursue cases against those who have previously been in a relationship with a victim. Let's go through each of these statements and find out why they are wrong, and what consenting to sex actually means. I will highlight important phrases from the quotes above, and I've omitted some due to redundancy.
  • Response #1: "I wouldn't consider that rape because it sounds like you didn't object very much. You said no, but you let him continue. He didn't force you, he didn't threaten you and you let yourself be persuaded. And then you had sex with him additional times..."
    • An objection only needs to happen once for it to be enough.
    • He may not have forced or threatened her, but men are physically bigger and stronger than women--a physical presence alone is enough of a threat. When I was with Theo, I was afraid to object merely because I knew if I did, he would hurt me.
    • In a court of law, rape is a single act and there are rape shield laws to protect the victim's sexual activity. While it was not a wise decision to stay with the abusive boyfriend, if this had gone to court, we are only looking at the one incident, not anything before or after that could be considered irrelevant.
  • Response #2: "...Rape means that you were FORCED to do something you didn't want to do. That doesn't seem to have been the case here. You could have pulled away when he started to enter you, but you admit that you didn't. Bottom line, if you don't want to do something you might regret, then don't put yourself in a positIon where you might be tempted, such as ENGAGING IN SEXUAL ACTIVITY WITH YOUR BOYFRIEND IN HIS CAR. The guy might have been a douchebag, but judging by your description of what happened, this was not rape. Take responsibility for your actions. "
    • Rape, as defined by the FBI for its Uniform Crime Reports, is "[p]enetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim." (emphasis added) There's that word consent again! In her description of the events, she said she told him "no". Again, once is enough to establish that she doesn't want to have sex.
    • To further my point, it really doesn't matter if she was with her boyfriend, making out and fooling around. The second she said no and the second he decided to go ahead anyway means he raped her.
  • Response # 4: "Shouldn't have led him on to be honest, you don't go that far and be like "no i don't want to have sex". You have only yourself to blame."
    • Consent was established to specific things, but when it came to sex, she put her foot down and said "no". When that verbalization is ignored, or if the perpetrator pressures or coerces their way into having sex, that becomes rape.
  • Response #5: "you provoked it. blame yourself "
    • This is a response I unfortunately hear a lot from those who shame victims into thinking the rape was actually their fault. If the girl had consented to sex, we wouldn't be having this issue. Rape is never provoked. It's the conscious decision of the perpetrator to ignore a protest or lack of consent.
Giving consent is a crucial part of trust in a relationship. California has even gone so far as to enact a "yes means yes" law, and I've taken a quote directly from the law, summarized here on NPR:

""Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent," the law states, "nor does silence mean consent. Affirmative consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual activity and can be revoked at any time.""

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