Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Advice columnist's diagnosis of "rape" a little premature

Here's advice columnist "Ask Amy" fielding a question about rape:
Dear Amy: Recently I was shopping and ran into one of my older brother's friends. He is 19 years old. I am 16. I was attracted to him. He invited me to his house and I went. He kissed me. I wanted to make out with him, but I did not want to go all the way and told him so. We made out. I wanted to stop. I wanted only to kiss him. We ended up having sex. I didn't say "stop" out loud. I kept thinking, "Stop! Stop! Stop!" But I didn't say it. I don't know why. I felt scared and shy. He didn't do anything to scare me. I just felt too scared to say stop. I felt stupid too. My mom's friend said I was raped. She said: "You told him you didn't want to go all the way. He's older than you. He should know better." She said a girl has to say "yes," and if a girl doesn't say yes and has sex, then she was raped.

Was I raped? I don't want to go to the police. I just want to know the answer. — Super Sad

Dear Sad: Your mother's friend is right. Though there are different legal definitions of rape in different states, you did not give your consent to have sex. And in some states, you are younger than the age of consent. In fact, you said — out loud — that you didn't want to, and you were raped. You were scared. You were in his house, he is older than you — I'm assuming he is bigger than you, and I'm also assuming you have never had to deal with anything like this before.
Your mother's friend sounds kind, smart and supportive. Please let her help you now. You need STD and pregnancy testing. (Planned Parenthood can provide testing and counseling; check for your local clinic.)
I urge you to go to the police to get their advice about what to do, legally and otherwise. I realize you don't want to do this, but this guy must not walk around thinking that what he's done is OK.
I am certain that your willingness to tell your story will help many people.
For more support and information, you can check the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network hotline at or by calling 800-656-4673. They now have an "online hotline" where you can chat with a counselor 24/7.
COTWA's TAKE: "I did not want to go all the way and told him so" evidences an absence of consent. Thereafter, they made out, and she says that, subjectively, she wanted to stop at kissing. But then she says, "We ended up having sex." We would need to know the circumstances surrounding how they "ended up having sex."  Did her outward conduct manifest a willingness to go all the way? For example, did she guide his penis into her, indicating she'd changed her mind? Or did he just plunge ahead without her consent? We can't conclude that a rape occurred without knowing what happened, and it is irresponsible for Amy to tell an impressionable young woman that a rape occurred without more this critical information. It is well to remember that women can change their minds -- either after giving consent or after saying they don't consent. And, of course, we couldn't possibly declare definitively whether a rape occurred without hearing his side of the story, but in terms of telling the girl what to do, "Ask Amy" was a little premature and a little irresponsible.

Amy's advice about statutory rape is good -- depending on the state, this might be a crime regardless of whether the girl actually consented.