HB74: Expanded definition for sexual assault goes to governor

By, Christopher Filanc-Gustafson
Capital West News

SALT LAKE CITY – A bill that would strengthen the rights of unconscious victim’s of sexual assault has been sent to Gov. Gary Herbert’s desk after passing both Utah House and Senate.

Under the current law sponsors Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Bountiful, and Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, say there have been many judges disregarding sexual offense cases because victims could not remember the event.

There have been women who have filed rape charges because they were slipped the so-called “date rape drug” and falling unconscious. Judges will ask victims if they said “no” and women would respond that they were unconscious. Under the current law judges cannot go further.

Weiler and Romero’s goal then is to correct the law so that rape cases can proceed.

“It does not prevent a rape charge going forward if the person was unconscious,” Weiler said regarding  HB74. This bill reshapes the description of consent in the criminal code regarding sexual offenses.

The bill would allow women who have been sexually assaulted while unconscious to take action into their own hands.

“That would not be an obstacle for prosecution; prosecution would still have to prove their case but it would not get thrown out on that technicality that she couldn’t testify that she said ‘no,’ ”Welier explained.

It has been said that rape in Utah occurs at quite the high rate as far as for violent crimes go and that one in three Utah women will have some type of sexual assault experience in their lifetime according to http://www.health.utah.gov.

“The Governor has three choices, he can sign it, he can not sign it or he can veto it”, Weiler said. The senator does not feel the governor will veto it and he expects that he will sign the bill.

The senator expects that the bill will be signed in March.
The following information came from slc.gov.com:

– Approximately one out of eight women will be raped at one point in their lifetime and in these incidents that do occur, just under 10 percent are reported to law enforcement.

– For colleges and universities, it has been said that students nationwide between twenty to twenty five percent of women have been raped or experienced attempted rape. Thirteen percent of college women have indicated that they have been forced to have sex in a dating situation.

– Also more than 50 percent of women victims have reported that they were in fact intoxicated during the event and it is definitely a far greater for rape while under the influence.

– Overall in the United States, victims are ten times more likely to abuse drugs and fourteen times more likely to have alcohol dependencies.

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