Sexual Assault Bill Advances Despite Questions that Unconscious Sex May Not Always be Rape

Representative Angela Romero (Democrat - Salt Lake City)
Representative Angela Romero (Democrat – Salt Lake City)

After much debate surrounding the concept of implicit consent and rape, the House Judiciary Committee approved HB74  – Consent Definition for Sexual Offense – with a favorable recommendation.

The bill redefines the burden of proof around rape, with the focus not being on whether or not a person consents, but if a perpetrator knows the state of the victim’s consciousness. In effect, the language places the burden of proof off of the victim and onto the perpetrator of the crime.

Romero called the bill a needed change to Utah law regarding sexual assault.

Romero took on questions of clarification from the members of the committee regarding what consent meant in specific situations as she defended her legislation.

Members of the public were in favor of the legislation as Romero presented. One such member of the public was ABC 4’s Kim Fischer, who disclosed for the first time publicly that she was sexually assaulted in college, spoke in favor of the bill asked the committee “If I were your daughter, your niece, a friend, how would you want this law written?”

Derek Deitsch, vice president of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity appreciated the added focus on assault, noting that the bill would better define parameters and make it clear where the state stands. “As a male, I think it’s important to hold other males accountable for the decisions that they make…Regardless of their relationship with somebody, that does not imply consent.”

Eyebrows were raised when Representative Brian Greene (Republican – Pleasant Grove) said that “this is not a pleasant thing to even envision, if an individual has sex with their wife while she is unconscious, a prosecutor could then charge that spouse with rape, theoretically,” adding “that [this scenario] makes sense in a first date scenario, but not where people have years of sexual history. It takes away the defense of implied consent or prior consent.”

After outrage at Greene’s statement regarding if unconscious sex is truly rape between spouses, Greene’s wife, Renee, took to Facebook to say that “Brian doesn’t believe that it is okay to have sex with an unconscious person,” and would go on to to blame the media for inflating the story. Instead, she encouraged people to listen to the committee hearing to understand context.

Representative LaVar Christensen (Republican – Draper) echoed Greene’s concerns, stating “You can have the unintended consciousness of being so vague and so broad that we can go backward, instead of forward.” Christensen summed his concern that the issue should be treated case by case by saying “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.”

Attorney Donna Kelly spoke on behalf the bill, along with Representative Angela Romero. Kelly responded to Greene’s and Christensen’s question about consent, stating that consent is determined at that moment.

The bill moved forward unanimously with a favorable recommendation.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.