How Can Sex Be “Partly Consensual”?
In a bizarre and troubling case, a teenager in Evanston, Illinois will be charged with felony misdemeanor assault because the victim, a 14-year-old girl, apparently gave the police contradictory information about what happened. She told them that the sex was not actually “forced,” as she had told them earlier, but “partly consensual.” I was unaware that sex could be “partly consensual,” but apparently that’s good enough for the authorities in Evanston.
According to the Evanston newspaper, the victim originally told the police that the perpetrator forced her to have sex with him in a bathroom in her school. In a police report quoted by the Trib, the investigating officers explained that “”When questioned about those inconsistencies, the victim allegedly recanted some of her original statement, indicating the incident was partly consensual.”
So…should the fact that part of the assault was non-consensual be the issue? Lauri Apple, writing for Jezebel, highlights the central confusion in the phrasing: “How does one separate the non-consensual parts of a sexual encounter from the consensual ones to arrive at such a charge? It’s not like these things are ever cut-and-dried.”
In the wake of a case from earlier this week, in which a British woman was sent to jail for recanting rape allegations that she later said she had been pressured into retrating by her perpetrator and family, this seems like it could be another example of a rape victim coming forward and facing coercion, whether overt or subtle, to take back her accusation. I sincerely hope that all of this gets ironed out, and that the 14-year-old victim was not pressured into recanting parts of her story, but we’ll have to keep following the coverage to find out more.
Photo from Flickr.