image from hlntv.com
October 2, 2014
Recently, there have been a string of news reports released related to violence against women. From former Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice assaulting his future wife to the ongoing plague of international sex trafficking of women, there is an epidemic of rape, sexual assault and abuse of women that is occurring in our world every moment of every day. In an effort to combat sexual assault on state college and university campuses, the California legislature recently adopted a new law , known as ‘Yes Means Yes,’ that requires “affirmative consent” by all parties before and throughout sexual activity. Simply stated, that means that silence or lack of resistance, even by someone who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol (taken voluntarily or not), does not constitute consent to have sex. The goal of this law is clearly to reduce the “gray area” of consent that abounds in a society whose criminal justice system is forced to rely on “he said/she said” and evidence to support a rape conviction, not a victim’s assertion alone. One app, Good2Go, also attempts to combat the issue of sexual consent head-on.
Retired judge Mary Jane Mowat recently made the following remarks on the issue of consent to the Oxford Mail: “I will also say, and I will be pilloried for saying so, but the rape conviction statistics will not improve until women stop getting so drunk. I’m not saying it’s right to rape a drunken woman, I’m not saying for a moment that it’s allowable to take advantage of a drunken woman. But a jury in a position where they’ve got a woman who says ‘I was absolutely off my head, I can’t really remember what I was doing, I can’t remember what I said, I can’t remember if I consented or not but I know I wouldn’t have done’. I mean when a jury is faced with something like that, how are they supposed to react?”
Before stating my opinion on this new law, let me make it clear that I, in no way, condone non-consensual sex, rape or any type of sexual assault towards women. I certainly do not feel that how intoxicated a woman becomes or what she is wearing is an invitation to take advantage of a situation, and “she was asking for it” is the sick mentality of an individual who has no respect for women, or our civilized society as a whole.
To all women out there, please think carefully about this: A law is not a gun. It is not a knife. It is not the Rape-aXe (which I fully support the use of, although I fear the day when it is used by a vindictive woman to frame a man for rape). It is not a taser. It is not a self-defense class. It is not sobriety. It is simply words, with consequences for violating them. Even with a rape conviction, the emotional and mental scars can last for a lifetime. As a male and someone who has never been the victim of a sexual assault, I have no place to comment on the damage done to a woman by rape. As the childhood victim of an emotionally abusive alcoholic mother, however, I can tell you that there are some injuries which time may never heal.
My main concern with ‘Yes Means Yes’ is that it is being seen as a victory for women and provides a false sense of security, without taking into account the mentality of the men who perpetrate these horrible crimes. Will it prevent rape? Yes, in the few cases where an individual thinks twice before taking a drunk girl back to his place or slipping her a drug, or when a conviction takes a rapist off the streets and prevents him from harming other women. The bigger issue is that, for some individuals in our society, laws and the consequences for breaking them mean nothing. Whether it be a college student slipping a roofie into a sorority girl’s drink, a serial rapist with mental issues or a controlling and abusive boyfriend or husband, there are some people for whom either the consequences of their actions have no meaning or they feel they are smart enough that they won’t get caught. No law, no prison and no amount of rhetoric will change their thinking. Sadly, there are probably many men out there who will hear about this new law and think, “how can I get around this and still not get caught?” Even more disturbing is the fact that some will be successful in evading justice for their crimes.
Sexual assault and violence against women, despite our best efforts to enact change, will still continue to plague our society for many years to come. Outreach, awareness and vigilance by both women and men are just as important as laws and punishments in reducing the plague of sexual assault against women that exists today.