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Sexual Assault Survivors Can’t Catch a Break: #NowWhat

Justice better close her eyes because apparently, forced sexual assault is OK in Okla.

ColumnIt’s not easy for people who have gone through a sexual assault to come forward. Yeah, that’s not exactly a groundbreaking statement. It’s a point that deserves repetition, though, because it seems like every week there’s news about how yet another person who has experienced assault is hurt by someone in power, or archaic laws.

Oral sex and consent in Okla.

In 2014, a 17-year-old boy gave a 16-year-old girl a ride home from a Tulsa park after they drank and smoked weed with their friends. “Blood tests later showed her blood-alcohol level was .341, indicative of severe alcohol poisoning,” Mother Jones reports.

“She was unconscious when he dropped her off at her grandmother’s house and taken to the hospital, where she woke up in the middle of an examination for sexual assault. The boy’s DNA was detected around her mouth. He claimed she had consented to have oral sex, but she says she can’t remember anything after leaving the park.”

So, how is this not rape? The answer is simple. If you closely examine this very outdated  forcible sodomy law:

“Forcible Sodomy cannot occur where a victim is so intoxicated as to be completely unconscious at the time of the sexual act of oral copulation,” the Guardian reports.

And apparently, “Oklahoma’s forcible sodomy law only prohibits oral sex with someone who’s unable to provide consent because of mental illness or mental disability, not because of intoxication or unconsciousness,” Mother Jones reports. Because of this designation, the court’s ruling was deemed appropriate. “The state has a separate rape law that protects victims who are too drunk to consent, but only in cases of vaginal or anal penetration, not oral sex,” Mother Jones adds.

So, that’s why all the judges on the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals decided this girl wasn’t raped.

Let’s pause so we all can vomit.

There are quite a few people who are, understandably, upset by this ruling.

One such person is Benjamin Fu, the Tulsa County district attorney who lead the case.

“The plain meaning of forcible oral sodomy, of using force, includes taking advantage of a victim who was too intoxicated to consent,” Fu said. “I don’t believe that anybody, until that day, believed that the state of the law was that this kind of conduct was ambiguous, much less legal. And I don’t think the law was a loophole until the court decided it was.”

Fu also said that placing focus on why the victim couldn’t consent puts the victim at fault.

Bingo.

There also are many legal experts who think that the ruling should serve as a “wake-up call for legislators to update Oklahoma’s laws,” the Guardian adds.

For example, “Michelle Anderson, the dean of the CUNY School of Law who has written extensively about rape law, called the ruling ‘appropriate’ but the law ‘archaic.’”

Yeah, no shit.

Okla. lawmakers need to change this law right now. It puts sexual assault victims in danger, gives rapists a loophole to get away with their crimes, and could potentially mindfuck victims into thinking that what they experienced wasn’t rape when it clearly was.

Rape in the LGBTQ community

If you had to guess which community is at a high risk for being sexually assaulted and having that assault be ignored, who would you choose? The answer may surprise you.

The Association of American Universities conducted a survey last fall that found “rates of sexual violence for LGBTQ students are actually higher than for heterosexual and cisgender students,” the Establishment reports. The survey included responses from 150,000 students at private and public research institutions.

“Among female undergraduates, 73% of gay women and 77% of bisexual women experienced harassment, intimate partner violence, or stalking, compared to 61% of straight women,” The Establishment adds.

“Rates of unwanted sexual contact involving force were also higher for LGBT students: 19% for gay women and 32% for bi women, versus 18% for straight women (still a startling number). The disparities between gay and bisexual men and straight men were similar. Those identifying as TGQN (transgender, genderqueer, questioning, or otherwise non-conforming) consistently reported more incidents of forced or coerced sexual contact than either men or women.”

The rates may be higher in the LGBTQ community because these individuals could “face violence and harassment from those outside the community who use sexual force to reinforce heterosexuality and gender norms, or they may be hurt by people within the community who have internalized those norms,” The Establishment explains.

Utterly depressing.

Obviously, anyone can be sexually assaulted. Straight men and women, transgender people, as well as bisexuals, lesbians, and homosexual men, can be (and are) raped and assaulted. So, once and for all, can we just recognize this and give people the justice they deserve?

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Image of statue of justice via Shutterstock

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