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Fri Jan 25, 2013, 11:58 AM

Tennessee Supreme Court Considers Whether Minor Is An Accomplice In Her Own Statutory Rape [View all]

http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/article/2013/01/22/tennessee-supreme-court-considers-whether-minor-is-an-accomplice-in-statutory-rap

It's hard to imagine a more devastatingly unjust view of child sex crimes than one that considers the victim as an accomplice in the crime committed against them. But in Tennessee that's the very issue before the state supreme court in a case that has drawn attention to a centuries old rule that strikes some troubling contemporary notes on rape, consent and force.

In State v. Collier, a 42 year-old man was convicted of aggravated statutory rape after having sex with a 14-year-old victim. Collier, who authorities say was an old friend of the teenager's father, allegedly picked the victim up from a friend's house, took her back to his home where he had sex with her. When the girl returned home the next day she told police she had called Collier from her friend's house and that he picked her up and that she had consented to sex with him. Based on her statement Collier was arrested and charged with aggravated statutory rape.

...

Believe it or not, under Tennessee common law, it is possible for a minor sex crime victim to also be an accomplice in the crime. The issue turns on whether that victim voluntarily consented to the sexual activity. If your head is swimming after that last sentence, you are not alone. The very idea of statutory rape is that some kinds of sexual encounters are legally impossible to consent to per se—such as the one between a forty-two-year-old man and a fourteen-year-old girl. Yet in Tennessee a string of cases suggest the pernicious idea that minors are culpable in their victimization is not at all a thing of the past.

...

Some legal observers believe the Tennessee Supreme Court agreed to hear the case in order to do away with this idea once and for all. But when the state Supreme Court in Alabama unilaterally declares a fetus a person by judicial fiat, it is hard to feel optimistic about this kind of case. And that is even more true in a political climate where conservatives freely invoke the rhetoric of "legitimate rape" and "honest rape" and when judges in states like California opine on whether a rape victim's case is "real" or merely a "criminal law problem" during the sentencing of her perpetrator. We can talk about the Tennessee law as "arcane" but if it is used to support decisions in the modern day, there is nothing arcane about it. Here the State Supreme Court has an opportunity to make an important clarification in the law and end the legal practice of diminishing the victimization of statutory rape survivors. Let's hope the court takes such an opportunity seriously.


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