More than one person over the course of my career has asked me – usually with disbelief written all over their faces – how I can defend people accused of rape and other sexual crimes. My answer is always the same: Because the person who is accused may not be legally guilty of the particular Massachusetts sex crime they happen to be charged with.
While that usually gets the person to think twice, what’s disturbing is the attitude – more specifically, the pre-conceived notions – that most people start off with on this subject. This attitude almost translates to: “Anyone who is accused of rape or other sex crime, must be guilty.” The retort that usually silences them for good is this: “Really? Then I suppose that if you were accused of a sex crime, by your own reasoning, you’d have to be guilty, wouldn’t you?” A blank stare is the universal response to that comeback. But beyond this attitudinal presumption of guilt that people harbor about rape and other sex offenses, is something just as, or even more, pernicious: Twisted “new” definitions of what rape really is – fueled largely by militant feminists and liberal ‘activists’ on college campuses across the United States. This is all fueled by political correctness – that toxic idea that has said for too long now that one can’t say anything that could even remotely offend anyone, at any time, in any place, for any reason.
Rape has always been defined legally as: “The unlawful carnal knowledge of a woman by a man forcibly and against her will.” “Unlawful”, “Force” and “against her will” have always been central to this definition. (By the way: While the feminine pronoun has always been used in this definition, it should go without saying that a man can be raped, also.) Rape has always been viewed as a violent crime, savage in its commission, and always defined by a lack of consent. However, that time-honored legal definition is apparently not good enough for many “activists” in universities in this country. Exhibit “A” on how college campuses across America are twisting the time-tested legal definitions of rape? A recent study by Reason Magazine revealed that more than half of MIT students believe that rape and sexual assault “can happen unintentionally, especially if alcohol is involved.”
Say that again? In other words, a majority of students think that if alcohol is involved, one can accidentally rape. From Reason Magazine: About a fifth of female undergraduates and a quarter of male undergraduates surveyed agreed that “when someone is raped or sexually assaulted, it’s often because the way they said ‘no’ was unclear or there was some miscommunication.”
What? Rape can now result from a “miscommunication”? Let me say again: Unless the charge is statutory rape, in which consent can be present 100% and if the victim is under the age of consent, then rape is almost always a violent, brutal, savage, sick act. In my opinion as a Boston rape defense lawyer, it’s a pretty bad sign when something as personally devastating and horrifying as rape has now been “redefined” to the point that college students think it can be the result not of a violent attack, but a mere “miscommunication.” How, you might ask, exactly can rape occur “accidentally”? Answer: When consent to sex is defined the way it is in California, which is: An “affirmative, unambiguous, and conscious decision by each participant to engage in mutually agreed-upon sexual activity.”
Once more on that? That kind of pathetic redefinition of the crime of rape is what our politically-correct world has come to. It’ isn’t hard to see why drunk college students might struggle with that one.
Once more, let me make it unambiguously clear: Actual rape is an abhorrent, violent affront to another person – of whatever gender. It is vile, and it is criminal – and when it really occurs, it should be punished to the maximum extent appropriate under the circumstances. But when we as a society start changing and relaxing the time-tested legal definitions of this sex crime, we can all be in trouble. Why? Because you, or someone you care about, just may be the next person who is charged under this “new,” “updated” interpretation. Both men and women should think about that – because women can be charged with rape, too. Granted, it’s usually oral rape or digital rape (use of finger or hands,) but it’s not uncommon.