January 6, 2020- In open court, Harvey Weinstein trudged along slowly aided by strong arms at each side while he leaned on his brushed aluminum walker. His bearing seemed pathetically staged to curry sympathy from Judge James B. Burke, and on-lookers. His countenance, weary and beaten, bore no resemblance to someone who, just months ago, controlled the careers of Hollywood stars and the fate of multi-million dollar productions.
Across the street from the Manhattan courthouse at 100 Centre Street, eight beautiful, brave women, who identified themselves as “silence breakers,” gathered in support of the effort to bring Weinstein to justice; Ellen Barkin, Rosanna Arquette, Louise Godbold, Dominque Huett, Sara Ann Masse, Rose McGowan, Lauren Sivan, and Paula Williams.
Articulately, and energetically, they presented their personal statements to the clamoring media. Several times, the presentation had to be stopped to provide breathing room as the reporters converged on top of each other to get their best view. At one point, I found myself swallowed into the melee with two large, eager, camera wielding press vying for my space- creating a moment’s scary sense of being besieged by paparazzi.
Rose McGowan cleared all doubt about why survivors need to speak out….
She remarked: “Living in silence is a death threat to your soul!”
Also today, Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced that Weinstein is being charged with four counts of rape and sexual battery. No matter the result of the New York case, he’ll face further legal consequences for his defiling actions.
Predatory Sexual Assault in New York….
The crimes Weinstein’s charged with rely on the fact that he engaged in sexual conduct without securing consent. Yet, like in most states across the US, New York’s laws fail to define consent. Instead, they rely on the bizarre notion that defining “without consent” is the same as defining “consent.” Clearly, it is not. And when applying a “without consent” litmus test to a crime, only those specific behaviors that the state identifies as “without consent” matter.
The application of law is based on the ancient Roman concept- Nulla pena sine legue – which means, if the law does not specifically state a prohibition, the behavior is not a crime.
The methods a person can use to engage in sex crimes are infinite. Selecting a handful of those methods as “prohibited” behavior fails to protect society. Society can only be protected if the concept of “consent” is clear in order for all nonconsensual sex to be recognized as criminal behavior.
Why do we have this bizarre way to address sexual assault?
Simply put, women, the principle targets of sexual assault, have been considered “less than” throughout the ages. And the gravity of causing them defilement by devious, coercive or violent actions has been seen as trivial by our lawmakers, who, for the most part, have been men.
Rape mentality is embed in our justice system which, for generations, has decidedly determined that only certain ways of conducting sexual assault, not every way of conducting sexual assault, are punishable.
Commonsense dictates that if someone does not consent, no one has the right to impose themselves; just like failure to secure consent results in criminal charges when the offender takes a victim’s property. But as our laws exist, consent is not actually the benchmark to determine whether or not sexual conduct is legal. Instead, a narrowly stated concept of certain prohibited “without consent” behaviors determines if a crime took place. In Weinstein’s case, although the statutes say that he should have elicited consent from his targets, they fail to define what consent actually is.
Because only conducting sexual contact under certain circumstances of non-consent makes unsecured consent a crime in New York, it remains unclear whether the prosecutor or the defense will make the stronger argument under our absurdly antiquated system.
Overhauling sexual assault laws
If the defense prevails, it proves one and only one thing….. not that Harvey Weinstein is anything but the immoral scumbag we recognize him to be, and that he violated scores of women, but that our laws have failed to protect us against scumbags for centuries, enabling society to develop a callous rape mentality. And our lawmakers need to protect us and our future generations from defiling sexual conduct.
The right to engage in sexual contact without consent must stop. And it will only stop when our laws state exactly what consent is – free given, knowledgeable, and informed agreement, #FGKIA, just like we recognize it in every code and law dealing with any other “nonsexual” conduct.
Insist that your lawmakers #CodifyConsent in order to protect the residents of your state or jurisdiction.
“This is the primer for defining consent!” Hon. Sally Siegrist, Indiana State Representative.