What makes the difference between a rape by fraud bill that soars through legislation to become law, and one that fails? ……Creative, responsible, caring leadership like VI Senate Majority Leader Marvin Blyden and VI Senate President Novelle Francis Lewis.
On June 29th, the Virgin Islands’ Senate voted unanimously to pass its first rape by fraud bill. According to the Virgin Islands Daily News, this bill results from the overturn of the conviction of Irvin Ocasio Flores, who, back in 2013, slipped into bed with a woman who was sleeping and mistook him for her husband.
This case is eerily similar to the 2017 trial of Donald Grant Ward in Indiana, who had initiated sex in a Purdue University dorm room by pretending to be his victim’s boyfriend. While Ward was not convicted, Flores was convicted of rape, unlawful sexual contact, and domestic violence. He was sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment and required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.
The victim’s impact statement was read at sentencing by her advocate from the Department of Justice, Elma Brathwaite:
“I am fighting for my life because of what Irvin Ocasio Flores did to me. I cry every day because he destroyed my life, he destroyed my family… Because of the rape, I have lost a lot…Irvin Ocasio Flores is a danger to others because I believe he is sick enough to do this again to someone else. I ask you to keep him in jail until it is time for him to go to the cemetery.”
But…… the Flores conviction was overturned by the VI Supreme Court!
Chief Justice Rhys Hodge stated that because no specific law regarding rape by fraud existed in VI’s penal code, the court had no choice but to reverse the decision.
‘While we are cognizant of this gap in our territory’s rape statutes, it is within the domain of the Legislature, not this court, to create law,” Hodge said.
Doing the right thing!
Outraged by this grotesque loophole in the Virgin Islands’ laws, legislators unanimously approved tacking-on a correcting amendment to a non-related Bill, #33-0030, which requires annual renewal of trade name registration. Their efforts wholeheartedly proved that where there’s a will, there’s a legislative pathway to justice!
VI Governor Albert Bryan Jr. is expected to sign Bill #33-0030 into law shortly!
Let’s pray the law makers in Indiana think creatively about protecting the residents of their state in the upcoming legislative session by enacting the wording of HB #1584 into their state’s penal code, and correctly defining consent in their laws.
Because Donald Grant Ward was never convicted, his victim was denied even the basic solace of facing him at sentencing and reading her impact statement. The laws of Indiana not only stripped her of her bodily autonomy, but failed to provide the steps to help her recover. Indiana legislature’s failure to right this hideous wrong adds another insulting, invalidating blow to Ward’s already egregious conduct.
The real cure!
Judge Hodge’s comments underscore that rape laws are a Swiss cheese umbrella, fraught with all sorts of loopholes, and the only way to adequately protect against rape is by defining “consent” in the penal codes of every state and territory throughout the US and around the world! It is simply impossible to plug up each every loophole in rape law as they become evident to legislators because . there are infinite ways a person can be raped, just like there are infinite ways a person can be murdered or robbed…… We have no loopholes in murder or robbery. We should have no loopholes in rape. Properly defining consent will insure the public’s safety.
Just like murder and robbery are assigned degrees of severity in penal code, sexual assaults are, and should be, assigned degrees. But all non-consensual sex, sex without freely given, knowledgeable and informed agreement, #FGKIA, is, and should be, a crime!
What can YOU do about this problem?