This Bill Could Change Maryland's Grossly Unjust Rape Law

Rape victims should not be punished for being afraid to fight.

If you attend college in Maryland, you most likely will be taught the best way to live through a rape is to not fight back, that your survival depends on you not resisting. And if you follow this advice, the state of Maryland will not prosecute your rapist.

Currently, law enforcement in Maryland is interpreting state law that is, according to news sources, allowing 34 percent of reported rapes in Baltimore County alone to be closed as unfounded without an actual investigation due to this policy.

As a survivor of rape, I often feel that my greatest regret was not fighting back. My repeatedly saying “no” meant nothing to my rapist who instead gave me alcohol and continued to physically insist until I stopped saying anything at all. But my lack of fighting did not give him permission to do what he did. No means no.

Rape victims should not be punished for being afraid to fight or not knowing how to fight.

Nineteen years later I’m now a mother and I am not comfortable with telling young women not to fight back or to not defend themselves if they want to. In fact, I think we should equip young ladies with the ability to fight back if they want to learn how. But even more importantly, I feel that we should uphold the fact that lack of consent does not equal consent. That only “yes” means “yes.” We should teach our children and society they must respect the wishes of the other person.

Rape victims should not be punished for being afraid to fight or not knowing how to fight. Rape victims who are sleeping, unconscious, restrained or for any other reason unable to fight, should not be victimized again by the justice system. Every accusation of rape deserves a full investigation and those who did commit a rape or sexual assault against another person should be held accountable by our justice system.

In both 2004 and 2005, lawmakers and advocates in Maryland fought to change this backward law – and failed. Advocates are trying again in 2017 and hope to bring a bill to Governor Larry Hogan’s desk to be signed into law. So far, Governor Hogan has not taken a position on the proposed legislation, according to WBAL News.

Supporters of this bill are likely looking at statistics across the United States that show on average only two of three rapes will be reported the police. According to RAINN, out of 1,000 sexual assaults, only 344 will be reported to the police. We may never know how accurate that statistic is because it means the other 656 were not investigated. However, I’d weigh heavily on the idea that if a person is too scared to report the abuse, it’s likely it happened. Out of those 1,000 reported incidents, 57 will lead to an arrest, only 11 will be referred to prosecutors and only 7 will get a felony conviction. Of those 7, only 6 will go to prison. And even then, as we saw in the Stanford case, that prison sentence might be quite short.

As a journalist, I’ve sat through several hearings where a judge told a young man that his life “shouldn’t be ruined” over a “mistake.” In two cases in Utah, that “mistake” was raping and sexually assaulting an underage girl after she said “no.”

In Park City, Utah, two 19-year-old males supplied their underage victims with alcohol until they stopped saying “no.” Despite admitting to the judge that the girls had said “no,” they did not receive punishment for the girls being unable to consent due to their age and only received probation for providing them alcohol. Instead of prison for rape, the boys went to college while their victims tried to rebuild their damaged lives.

In St. George, Utah, the young girl was under the age of 14. The adult male had sexually assaulted her in her home. He received one year of probation and was told the charges would be removed from his record completely if he towed the line for 365 days. Future families inviting him into their homes will have no idea he is a predator because he will never be a registered sex offender despite what he had already pleaded guilty to.

And this is the way our country works against sexual assault victims. The truth is, if you’re being assaulted, you’re better off yelling “fire” to get someone to help you because many people will not come to your rescue if you yell “rape.”

Critics of the new Maryland bill tout a widely used statistic that 2 to 8 percent of reported rapes are false. This is another statistic that is hard to prove because in many of those cases, there just wasn’t enough evidence to prosecute or the victim recanted his or her story out of fear.

And this is another reason why every reported rape deserves a full and complete investigation, to protect the victim as well as the accused. For Maryland to refuse to investigate sexual assaults, or to force victims to endanger their lives by fighting back, it’s telling rapists that Maryland is the place to live if you want to get away with being a rapist.

I’m sure I’m not the only Marylander who will be watching closely which elected officials vote against this bill. While I feel this bill is misguided in teaching all women that not resisting is the only answer, when in fact there is no one way to handle an assault, this bill goes a long way in fixing the way the state of Maryland handles cases of rape.