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.


Amber M.
Amber Beasley7 years ago

you either want to and agree to have sex with that person or you don't. if you don't say no, then you can't say you didn't want to. if you say no and try to stop, then that's rape.

Michelle R.
Michelle R7 years ago

Seriously, asking a 14 yr. old about a sexual accounter? I hadn't even started my period, wearing a bra, etc. etc. and adults think she wasn't intimidated during an interview about sex? F(*& off!!!

How about the also recent story of the SC women raped by a cop, further assaulted by cops to say that although she didn't consent, it wasn't rape?


How about the OH woman who was stripped while in handcuffs by a male and a female police officer.

What is wrong with cops? A LOT.
What is wrong with our government. A LOT.

How about stickers that say "Raping" to post on Stop signs.

Walter G.
Walter G7 years ago

Come to think of it, just take a look at what Congress is planning ot do to us in the next 2 years, and you'll have an excellent example of what "partially consensual" rape is all about.

Walter G.
Walter G7 years ago

What happened to the statuary rape laws? Oh, I'm sorry, but waht has happened to laws in general?

Claire Jordan
Claire Jordan7 years ago

"Semi-consensual" might indicate a situation like one that was reported here in the UK recently. A girl of 16/17 went up a hill in the dark with a boy in his early 20s. She was perfectly aware that that might lead to sex and she was thinking "Well, yeah, maybe I'm up for that - let's see how it goes." They kissed, she decided that she didn't fancy the boy after all, he went on to have sex with her without asking her permission and in fact against her will, but she didn't apparently do or say anything to make it clear to him that it was against her will.

Years later the woman, now a writer, feels that she was raped and she has experienced the effects of rape, but whether it was rape from the boy's point of view depends imo on how clear it had been that she was contemplating having sex with him in the first place, and how clear it was that she had changed her mind. If she was very clearly willing at first, and didn't give any indication that she'd changed her mind, the boy might well say that she'd raped him, by misleading him into having a kind of sex (i.e. with an unwilling partner) which he hadn't wanted to have.

Mary L.
Mary L7 years ago

Last I heard there's this thing called statutory rape. Illinois age of consent was 16/17, There should have been no question about one charge. Young women are pressured frequently to not tell, or recant what they said. Not all cases, but certainly more than some people might think.

Diana S.
Diana S.7 years ago

Kendra ,hope you don't mind me re-posting your post because this has been my point exactly:Makes me sick. I absolutely hate when a person lies about rape. As a rape victim/survivor, I find it very disturbing that because of so many girls like this one, people who actually are raped, are often not believed and the offender never has to own up to it or pay for what they done. So so so many rape cases go "lost" or just mysteriously the evidence disappears and then what? Those rapists are running free, free to steal, hurt, and traumatize more women. :( I loathe lying about rape. There is no excuse for it.

If you are going to be or "pretend" to be responsible enough to have sex, then by all means be responisble enough to own up to it and not play the rape card if it's not rape. It's pretty dang hard to mistake willing sex for rape.I really appreciate you pointing this out since so many are missing the point.One person quoted less than 2% of consensual sex turns in to a false rape allegation,I would like to know where they got that information from and also what their point is.Even that supposed less than 2% is too much since it will cost true victims the consequences of not being believed down the road.I fail to understand why everyone thinks this girl lying was okay.Plain and simple people use your brains and think about it,she changed her story when someone changes their story it is due to them lying.She chose to engage in a sexual act despite her age.

John T.
John T7 years ago

@ Lika: "She's not at the age of consent."

Guess what. That's a legal euphemism, not reality. S/he has total control over their bodies. What they don't have control over is their hormones.
Those hormones have been around a lot longer than our pathetic laws. In the United States, by the 1880s, most states set the age of consent at ten or twelve, and in one state, Delaware, the age of consent was only seven. Women reformers and advocates of social purity initiated a campaign in 1885 to petition legislators to raise the legal age of consent to at least sixteen, with ultimate goal to raise the age to eighteen; the campaign was successful: by 1920, almost all states had raised the age of consent to sixteen or eighteen.
They passed laws but they didn't modify biology.

Koo J.
greenplanet e7 years ago

If one girl has lied it doesn't mean that all girls lie. Seems like people are jumping to a lot of conclusions.

The trauma of rape is horrnedous.

Lika S.
Lika P7 years ago

It's still about the good ole boys club, and how we discriminate against victims. She's 14. It doesn't matter how old the other party was. She's not at the age of consent. So it's still rape. If she said no, don't put it on her. Just because one teen does it doesn't mean they're all doing it. Less than 2% of consensual sex gets turned into a false rape accusation.