Detrimental loopholes in Texas sexual assault laws need to be revised

Detrimental loopholes in Texas sexual assault laws need to be revised

Detrimental loopholes in Texas sexual assault laws need to be revised
September 27
00:39 2018

Content warning: Sexual assault.

Like many, I was not aware of the fine print involving my state’s sexual assault laws, and it wasn’t until I was a victim of sexual assault that I was acquainted with its negligence.

Naively, I had assumed that Texas would represent all forms of sexual violence with due process. However, there is one small caveat that doesn’t protect all survivors of non-consensual sexual conduct: penetration, or the lack thereof.

It was this loophole that has prevented me and other victims from receiving justice where it’s due.

Section 22.011 of the Texas Penal Code labels sexual assault against an adult as “the penetration of the anus, mouth or sexual organ” without consent. Sexual assault also exists if the sexual organ of a non-consenting adult is used to penetrate another’s anus, mouth or sexual organ.

The law excludes adult victims who have been sexually groped, sexually stimulated without penetration or were victim to any type of sexual assault pertaining to outercourse. In fact, these transgressions are never once identified as their own crime. They are withheld from being protected under sexual assault laws and are displaced into a vague gray area of assault.

If weaponry is not involved, the crime would be considered a class C misdemeanor — the lowest criminal offense in the state. It would be grouped in the same category as driving without a valid license, drinking underage or consuming tobacco before age 18. This invalidates and minimizes a crime that often leaves lasting psychological trauma, such as PTSD, depression and suicidal ideation, weighing heavy on a victim’s shoulders.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics defines rape as “forced sexual intercourse including both psychological coercion as well as physical force. Forced sexual intercourse means penetration by the offender(s).” The Bureau of Justice Statistics defines sexual assault as “a wide range of victimizations, separate from rape or attempted rape. These crimes include attacks or attempted attacks generally involving unwanted sexual contact between victim and offender. Sexual assaults may or may not involve force and include such things as grabbing or fondling.”

Essentially, these definitions provide the differentiation between rape and sexual assault. Rape is a form of sexual assault. However, sexual assault is not limited to rape. Texas is one out of the five other U.S. states that nullify the spectrum of sexual violence.

All forms of sexual imposition deserve to be addressed virtuously. The lack of penetration does not lessen the severity of these crimes or the impact they may have on the victim. The reality is most cases of sexual assault aren’t committed because of an underlying motive for sexual gratification. Could it be perceived as this? Yes. However, the core dynamic revolves around the motives of a person trying to exert power, control and dominance over another individual.

Sexual violence can create psychological grief and trauma. Oftentimes this subjects a victim to a shift in understanding of self and their relation to the world. When their perpetrator can live without chance of imprisonment or any lawful discipline exceeding a $500 misdemeanor fine, the fear doesn’t just disperse into thin air. That fear is given back to the victim as they live through each day wondering if it could happen again. Or worse, it could happen to another person — maybe to a person they know or love.

According to statistics from the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network55 percent of all sexual assaults occur at or in close vicinity to the victim’s home, and seven out of 10 rapes are committed by a person known to the victim. These crimes are not being addressed to the full extent of the law, yet have an extremely high chance of repeating themselves over and over.

Sexual assault laws in Texas need to be inclusive to forms of violence that are happening every single day. This loophole cannot be overlooked anymore. This isn’t a discussion about a minor getting caught with a beer — this is a discussion about real victims being failed by the protection of their state laws. This is a discussion about trying to help those who have and will be forced into sexual actions against their will, regardless of penetration.

The Texas Association Against Sexual Assault is an organization aimed at ending sexual violence in the state of Texas. If you support this change, contact your legislators and ask them to support this effort.

Featured Illustration: Allison Shuckman

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madeline chalkley

madeline chalkley

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1 Comment

  1. Chip
    Chip September 29, 14:54

    Excellent article….

    Reply to this comment

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