Utah Lawmaker Apologizes for Questioning Whether Man Who Had Sex With Unconscious Spouse Should Be Charged With Rape

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Rep. Brian Greene, R-Pleasant Grove, speaks during the legislative session on the House floor on Friday, Jan. 30, 2015.
(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Rep. Brian Greene, R-Pleasant Grove, speaks during the legislative session on the House floor on Friday, Jan. 30, 2015.

If someone can’t consent, it’s rape.

A Utah measure seeking to make that legal clarification won early approval in a state legislative committee Tuesday, but some lawmakers qualified their support, questioning whether the law would designate sex with an unconscious spouse as rape.

“If an individual has sex with their wife while she is unconscious … a prosecutor could then charge that spouse with rape, theoretically,” said Rep. Brian Greene, R-Pleasant Grove.”That makes sense in a first date scenario, but to me, not where people have a history of years of sexual activity.”

Others disagreed. If a person is unconscious, having sex with him or her “is rape. Period. End of story,” said Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City. “Let’s make the statute clear. Let’s not dance around it.”

According to prosecutors, “consent is a decision that has to be made at the time of the act,” said attorney Donna Kelly from the Utah Prosecution Council. “You cannot give consent to sexual activity if you’re unconscious.”

Utah’s current law doesn’t adequately protect victims, advocates and others told the House Judiciary Committee at the Capitol on Tuesday.

“This is something that’s been a long time coming,” bill sponsor Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, said after the meeting. “At the end of the day, if someone’s unconscious or they’re a vulnerable adult, then the logical answer is: Don’t try to have a sexual relationship with them.”

Lawmakers parsed HB74 to understand the implications for sex between partners, husbands and wives and those who may be incapacitated by mental disabilities, medication or surgery. The legislation aims to clarify the definition of consent in sexual assault cases.

“I’m not at all trying to justify sexual activity with an unconscious person. It’s abhorrent to me,” Greene said. But he questioned whether sex with an unconscious person should be “rape in every instance — dependent only upon the actor’s knowledge that the individual is unconscious. That’s the question. That’s what I struggle with.”

Holly Mullen, director of the Rape Recovery Center, said the Tuesday debate sidestepped a more important discussion.

“Instead of dicing and parsing and saying, ‘Well, what about a wife if she’s asleep?’ just look at what is happening and the prevalence of sexual assault in our world. It’s a tool of power. That might be why they’re parsing. They don’t want to look at what is really going on around them.”

For Derek Deitsch, a University of Utah student and fraternity member who spoke in favor of the bill, the difference was clearer.

“As a male, I think it’s important to hold other males accountable for the decisions that they make,” said the vice president of Beta Theta Pi, which has partnered with the Rape Recovery Center to raise awareness about sexual assault. “Regardless of their relationship with somebody, that does not imply consent.”

Click here for more.

SOURCE: The Salt Lake Tribune
Annie Knox

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s