FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 24, 2009
Contact: Michael Cox (503) 986-1904
House Votes Unanimously for Justice for Rape Victims
HB 2343 affirms that rape is never the victim’s fault
The Oregon House unanimously passed a bill to improve protection for rape victims by removing consideration of a victim’s behavior leading up to a sexual assault from charging decisions. HB 2343, sponsored by Rep. Sara Gelser (D-Corvallis), clarifies that nonconsensual sex can be charged as rape, regardless of whether a victim became mentally incapacitated due to voluntary or involuntary actions.
“Oregon is one of only a handful of states whose sexual assault statute contains an explicit reference to a victim’s behavior prior to a sexual assault,” said Gelser. “Rape is never the victim’s fault. Our law should reflect that.”
House Democratic Majority Mary Nolan, commenting on passage of HB 2343, said clearly, “It is time.”
The current definition of “mental incapacitation” covers only a narrow set of circumstances. For example, if someone slips a drug into a victim’s drink and then the victim is sexually assaulted that can be charged as rape. However, if the victim was in the same state of incapacitation due to voluntarily consuming alcohol or another substance, it would be charged as a lesser offense.
“Any woman in Oregon should be able to enjoy a drink or a party without being raped,” said Rep. Jeff Barker (D-Aloha) who chairs the House Judiciary Committee. “This bill makes it clear that a rapist cannot escape responsibility for a crime by blaming the victim.”
If HB 2343 becomes law, the prosecution will still bear the burden of proving that rape occurred. This means that the prosecution must prove that the defendant knew that consent had not been given. A defendant could still argue that his own level of intoxication prevented the recognition of a victims’ incapacity to consent, or the defendant could argue that the victim gave consent. To obtain a conviction, the state must still prove that rape occurred beyond a reasonable doubt.
“Rape remains under reported and extremely difficult to prosecute due to the nature of the crime and cultural attitudes towards it,” said Gelser. “However, I am pleased my colleagues were willing to tackle this issue and unanimously voted to ensure our laws reflect that no one ever deserves to be raped.”
The bill was introduced at the request of former Attorney General Hardy Myers and the Attorney General’s Sexual Assault Task Force.
HB 2343 now moves to the Senate for final consideration.