I'm a TEDx Talk Presenter.... "When YES Means No- The Truth about CONSENT!" And I've authored three books on Sexual Assault. My third, "Your Consent - The Key to Conquering Sexual Assault" is currently available on my webpage ConsentAwareness.net, and will soon be released on Amazon. It is changing what our nation's laws say about sexual assault.
I grew up all along the East coast, from Massachusetts to Georgia, and settled in NYC more than fifty years ago. I worked on Wall Street as a Corporate Bond Trader and a real estate broker. I'm a PTR Certified Tennis Professional for Adult and 10 & Under Development. I run a free tennis program for the children in my community. I've done so for over 30 years.
I was awarded a "Woman of Distinction" honor by the NY State Assembly. Information about my blog, was used by a Federal Prosecutor to indict a sexual predator with 30+ victims. I advocate for sexual assault survivors and I'm available to speak on the true meaning of consent to any interested organization or group.
I'm strong, I'm resilient....I'm a survivor!
Band-aid fixes to sexual assault laws are failing society!
The Adult Survivors Act (ASA), NY State’s short-lived solution for providing survivors with justice- which expired Thanksgiving Day- proved that survivors have suppressed their struggles for decades! But ASA was limited to one year which only gave a window of relief to 2,700 survivors out of the countless victims across the sexual assault landscape!
ASA, a civil action substituting for criminal prosecution, could only be pursued when the offender had significant, attachable assets, or was backed by a culpable institution with deep pockets. ASA’s limited window to pursue financial restitution was the only option available for prosecuting high profile predators like Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Donald Trump, Russell Simmons, Sean “Diddy” Combs, and more.
Prior to November 24, 2022, the launch date for ASA, there was virtually no chance for justice for the victims who stepped forward, but survivors know, healing is about validation, not money… yet many who sought relief were ostracized for doing so.
Here’s the problem…..
Justice should not be reserved only for victims of the rich and famous. While high profile cases open society’s eyes to the magnitude of sex crimes, they fail to bring relief to survivors whose offenders lack sufficient assets to motivate an attorney to take their cases.
Several cases were dropped because the cost to pursue justice exceeded the victim’s budget. Criminal court, not civil court, is the correct choice for deterring crime.
The ASA band-aid does not correct the egregious flaws in penal codes, even in states with ASA laws! Penal Code continues to limp along with the same antiquated concepts that made criminal prosecution a victim beat-down in the first place.
How do we expect our laws to hold offenders accountable when many of our lawmakers, themselves, are lawless? The legislative incompetence that enables, and even promotes sex crimes, is blatantly visible in the volume of NY politicians alone who’ve been cited for their wrongdoing. NY State Governor Andrew Cuomo, NY City Mayor Eric Adams, NY City Comptroller Scott Stinger, NY State Governor Elliot Spitzer, NY State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, and more have all been accused of sex crime abuses.
What CAN is doing to create change…..
CAN is fighting to pass transformational legislation to bring sex crimes by ALL offenders to a screeching halt! Our legislative bill #A7523A is pending in NY State. It is the current version of CAN’s original Bill #A6540A, which is highlighted in the background as political activist and comedian Jean Kim announced in her 2021 effort to bring Scott Stringer to justice.
CAN is the architect of an amendment to the federal National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that passed in the US House of Representatives in 2022. We are continuing to strive for passage by both congressional houses in order to insure the safety of members of the US military, the jurisdiction with the highest ratio of sexual assault throughout the US.
Our efforts to define CONSENT in the state of Arkansas, Bill #1141, will continue despite its initial defeat. While we lost the battle, we are, by no means, giving up on this war!
CAN is fighting to create needed legislative changes that will turn society’s human right of consent into a powerful civil right backed by law! While our laws tell us consent is required for sexual contact, the word “consent” is not defined correctly in the penal code of any state or jurisdiction.
Your “Giving Tuesday” contribution will help us reach legislators in a meaningful way and raise public awareness in order to demand sorely needed change. The 2024 election is the perfect opportunity to rid government of sexual assault dinosaurs and replace them with lawmakers who can promote change now! CAN’s efforts to elect consent-savvy legislators to #CodifyConsent correctly, needs your backing!
We deeply appreciate all contributions and are aiming to raise $10,000 in our Giving Tuesday effort on or before November 28th.
Please use this link to donate your contribution to CAN’s crucial effort.
On July 22, 2023, The NY Times published an in-depth article, What People Misunderstand about Rape, by Jen Percy, addressing tonic immobility. She had interviewed CAN’s CEO, Joyce Short, in her research, who had written a post on this issue in 2014, and included a brief statement regarding her individual case. Ms. Percy’s insight laid bare the flagrant and direct conflict between the science of the victim’s response versus how our penal laws treat victims.
Joyce’s “freeze” reaction in her personal case was aligned with so many victims who were terrorized; fearing bodily injury or even death during the attack.
Penal laws are blind to the automatic and subconscious responses a victim’s brain will make in order to preserve their life. Their freezing and fawning reactions are treated by investigators as “acquiescing,” a reasoned, non-automatic response. While acquiescing is a conscious decision, freezing and fawning result from surges of the neuropeptides and hormones that terror triggers in the brain. But even acquiescing, agreeing under duress, does not constitute consent.
Consent is a form of agreement that must be freely given, not violently forced or coerced, knowledgeable and informed, not deceived or defrauded, and must not result from exploiting incapacity.
Involuntary, reflexive reactions to inescapable danger produce self-blame in victims who question their own inability to fight back or why they stopped resisting.
Both freezing and fawning directly result from the brain snapping into a protective mode by amping up the hormones and neuropeptides that control bodily and brain functions immediately when the amygdala senses an extreme threat.
In tonic immobility, the brain causes motor inhibition, a state of paralysis.
“Fawning” is the brain’s way of “going along to get along” when facing death or intense terror.
While Joyce stated that she did not feel paralyzed, she knew that resisting was putting her life at great risk. Her attacker pushed his forearm into her neck cutting off her airway, causing her freeze response.
Many states and jurisdictions have penal laws that base “consent” on the words or actions of the victim at the time they were terrorized. This “Yes means Yes” concept is misguided, blaming victims for their reactions which could be automatic, involuntary responses, assent, or acquiescence…. none of which are consent.
Archaic victim blaming has been embedded in penal laws for generations and determines how juries decide whether or not the complainant consented. Instead of focusing on causation – what did the accused do to secure the victim’s compliance – their rulings are based on what victims say and do under terrorizing conditions.
How can we change this grotesque injustice?
Ms. Percy’s article goes a long way to explain the phenomenon of freezing, but society needs to take the next step……..
By correctly defining consent in our laws as “freely given, knowledgeable and informed agreement, by a person with the capacity to reason.” #FGKIA, we turn our human right of consent into a powerful civil right backed by law. This definition will protect against rape, all sex crimes, and disrupt victim-blaming and shaming.
Another trending trope, “Enthusiastic Yes,” strips people of their First Amendment right of free speech, right in the privacy of their bedrooms.
CAN not only fights for legislative changes, but also addresses the harm caused by misinformed “consent educators” who sell “consent” education materials and profit from books, speeches, and trainings that promote “Yes Means Yes,’’ “No Means No,” and “Enthusiastic Yes.”
Malicious influence by the offender, not the reactions of their victims, should determine whether or not consent took place. We need our laws to get this right.
(Scroll down for comprehensive state-by-state chart ranked from best to worst)
Arkansas is ranked the 2nd worst state in the US, per capita, for incidents of rape. CAN is fighting to change their statistic by battling deeply embedded “dark ages” concepts.
Two bills, one defining consent and the other abolishing the Statute of Limitations for the most egregious, Y Felony rape cases, is set for a hearing by the “Judiciary Committee,” next week. Both bills were introduced by Representative Robin Lundstrum.
House bill #1577 will abolish the Statute of Limitations for Y Felony, aggravated, vicious rapes, and enable victims who are not yet willing to prosecute their cases, to have their rape kits processed and retained for the future.
House bill #1141 would define consent as “A freely given, knowledgeable and informed agreement (#FGKIA) by a person who is not physically helpless, mentally defective, mentally incapacitated, or under the legal age to consent.”
What’s the hold-up?
The Judiciary Committee chaired by Representative Carol Dalby is deeply entrenched in the “old ways” of doing things which positioned Arkansas on the bottom rung of the ladder. But despite their poor showing, old methods die hard. Dalby’s introductory statement, when bringing the March 2nd hearing to order, foretold our outcome…. She began with the chant, “That’s alright, that’s okay. We’re going to kill your bill today!”
And indeed they did!
Our consent bill did not secure a majority of votes, even though more legislators voted “yes” than “no.” The bill needed a majority of committee members to pass. The voting results were 8 “yays, “7 “nays,” and 5 “not voting.” “Not voting” prevented a majority decision.
While we lost in round one, we won’t give up! We recognize the need to enlighten law makers and build the public’s demand for change. To quote an important truism, “The sale starts when the answer is ‘No.'” We’re rolling up our sleeves!
Meanwhile….. Repealing the Statute of Limitation comes up next week. In last week’s discussion, Representative Jimmy Gazaway called Y Felony Rapes – Arkansas’s most violent crime against a living person – a “He Said/She Said,” unless there is a rape kit. The state already repealed SOL for Rape Kit cases and for child victims, with or without a rape kit, back in 2015.
Gazaway seems to have lost sight of the fact that rape cases were tried without rape kits for centuries. Currently, childhood rape cases, pursued by grown adults, rarely have rape kits as evidence. The Arkansas prosecutors determine whether there is sufficient evidence and credible testimony to prove a childhood rape case. That same oversight will apply in the prosecution of a violent rape of an adult. In fact several prosecutors showed up and supported #1577 for the initial March 16th hearing. Gazaway’s objection minimizes the most defiling crime that a person could face and is an insult to the competence of the prosecutors of Arkansas.
Why is Arkansas among the lowest of the lows?
We learned from detectives who handle sexual assault cases, very few of their intake officers are trained in trauma-informed interaction with victims. Arrests are made in only 12% of the cases who walk through their precincts’ doors. That means 88% of Arkansas victims have absolutely no hope for justice. Sexual predators get a free pass for offending at least 88% of the time…. and that’s without even considering the victims that simply have no faith in the system and don’t report.
Will abolishing the Statute of Limitations help?
Those of us who are survivors and work with survivors know that coming forward with a rape case takes tremendous bravery. In our present system, without focusing on whether consent took place or not, victims are literally raked over the coals by the justice system. For many, it takes years before they feel strong enough to face their attacker and the glaring eyes of a victim-blaming public. But we will never turn the tide on sexual assault until offenders know that they’ll spend a lifetime wondering when their vicious deeds will catch up to them. Instead, we sentence victims to a lifetime of injustice. Society needs this toxic dynamic to change.
Statute of Limitations indexed by eachstate’s per capita case ranking
Sixty-five percent of states throughout the US have eliminated the Statute of Limitations for egregious, violent rape cases. 70% of the top ranked states have abolished SOL. Check this list to see where your state stands from best to worst.
Just as Roosevelt Islanders felt comfortably secure in Manhattan, the State of NY has thrown us a curveball!
The redistricting map which was approved for the recent Assembly election was vetoed by NY State’s appellate court. While, for now, Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright remains our representative, if the new map prevails, we will have a Queens Assembly Member, not a Manhattan Assembly Member from the 2024 election.
Here is Assembly Member Seawright’s announcement on this issue:
“Commissioners on New York’s redistricting panel recently voted to advance a new proposed map for state Assembly legislative boundaries. I am very disappointed to see that the proposal for our AD76 would eliminate Roosevelt Island and redistrict it to a Queens Assembly District. I am committed to fighting alongside constituents to keep Roosevelt Island where it belongs.
Roosevelt Islanders were so powerful in their testimony during the New York City Council districting process, I believe together we can make an unequivocally strong argument to keep Manhattan’s Roosevelt Island with our Manhattan Assembly District 76. The process for state redistricting requires rigorous scrutiny, consistent with a process that ensures fairness, provides a platform for all voices, and carefully reviews all options.
The next steps are a series of public hearings around the State. The hearing in Manhattan will be on February 7, 2023 at the Hunter College Kaye Playhouse. I urge all concerned to share their views by testifying in person or submitting comments to the Commission directly at www.nyirc.gov/participate.“
Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright
Important steps for Roosevelt Islanders…..
The next meeting to plan the community’s presentation at the NYIRC hearing (at 4 PM on February 7th) will take place Thursday, January 19th at the Senior Center at 546 Main Street, Roosevelt Island, at 7 PM. You do not need to be affiliated with any party or be a registered voter to participate in our resistance to change.
Redistricting our community to Queens spells disaster for several reasons. By NY State’s own redistricting rules:
Districts must consist of contiguous territory and shall be as compact in form as possible.
The commission must take into account the maintenance of existing districts, pre-existing political subdivisions, including counties, cities, towns, and communities of interest.
Roosevelt Island is located in the Borough of Manhattan. We are an isolated island situated in the middle of the East River. Our transportation links, used daily by our working population and school children, directly connect us to 63rd Street and 2nd Avenue, the next stop on the F train, and 60th Street and 2nd Avenue, a 3.5 minute ride by tram. Both stops are in District 76, our most contiguous point of connection point.
Our tramway is operated by the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC) to link residents with Manhattan destinations. All maintenance, repairs, and capital improvements must be made by this state agency by connecting with mainstream Manhattan authorities. It is not part of the MTA system. Our tramway is a vital transportation link that is used each day by commuters in order to get to work, and by school children, most of whom attend school in mainland Manhattan. It has no connection to Queens and is of no consequence to a Queens Assembly Member.
Many of our children go to public and private schools in Manhattan, not Queens. PS/IS 217, the only public school in our community, is only available on a limited basis to children through the 8th grade. Confirmed by the school’s principal, Mandana Beckman, the school can only accommodate 33 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. Therefore, the vast majority of our public, middle school children attend District 2 schools in Manhattan. The mandated DOE District 2 school, which has the highest volume of Roosevelt Island middle schoolers, is Robert S. Wagner Middle School, located in the 76th AD. In addition, PS/IS 217 can only accommodate 15 of our 3K children, and 36 PreK2 children. The majority of our early learners, who PS/IS 217 cannot accommodate, attend DOE District 2 schools in the 76th AD. Our District 76 Assembly Members have all had long, established relationships with schools in our required school district. We need to retain this invaluable Manhattan “community of interest.”
Our first responders for emergencies and crimes are NY State Peace Officers employed by the Public Safety Department (PSD), under the unelected management of the Roosevelt Island Operating Corp. They are not employed by the NY Police Department, (NYPD). Since our local policing is managed by RIOC, and operates outside the control of NYPD, we need the combined efforts of our Manhattan legislators to assure proper law enforcement and intervene on the community’s behalf when the need arises.
Cornell, a NY State land grand institution, occupies several acres of Roosevelt Island. Two thirds of their land will soon be developed. Our community needs to insure Cornell’s adherence to the policies that were established by NY State, Manhattan Community Board 8, and City Council. We need the strong oversight achieved by having both of our Manhattan-based State legislators working alongside our Manhattan City Council Member and Community Board 8, to support the protections granted in the Manhattan ULURP process for Cornell’s upcoming construction.
Since our inception almost 50 years ago, Roosevelt Islanders have established enduring relationships with many Manhattan based communities of interest. Due to our proximity to the United Nations, we have a large immigrant and non-resident population who retain close ties with the United Nations. We have many UN officials, UN staff, and their families living in our community. The housing quarters for the staff of Cornell Weill Hospital, in District 76, are located on Roosevelt Island. Also, a significant portion of our population work at other nearby Manhattan hospitals in District 76. Many of our residents are actively engaged with religious institutions in Manhattan. Most of our working population commute to Manhattan for employment every workday.
Please take a few minutes to send this important letter:
Subject Line: Opposition to the State proposal for Redistricting Roosevelt Island
To: Members of the New York State Independent Redistricting Commission
Thank you for considering Roosevelt Island’s needs when determining the redistricting map for New York State’s Assembly. I strongly oppose the current proposal which removes Roosevelt Island from Manhattan’s District 76 and places it in Queens District 36.
New York State’s redistricting rules require:
Districts must consist of contiguous territory and shall be as compact in form as possible.
Our Manhattan Island’s contiguous territory is Manhattan, not Queens.
The proposed change to our district is sprawling, not compact.
The commission must take into account the maintenance of existing districts, pre-existing political subdivisions, including counties, cities, towns, and communities of interest.
Roosevelt Island is being severed from long established communities of interest. Our political subdivision is not being respected.
The City Charter of New York City recognizes Roosevelt Island as a Manhattan community.
The Constitution of New York State specifically provides two State legislators for each district, a Senator and an Assembly Member. Roosevelt Island, a Manhattan community, has a unique form of local governance. We are governed by an unelected, State appointed Public Benefit Corporation, the Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC). All of our local services are administered by RIOC, not by New York City. The Board of Directors for RIOC is appointed by and serves at the pleasure of the Governor of NY. Because of this unique relationship with the State of NY, in which our residents do not have a voting voice in their local government, it is imperative that we, a Manhattan community, have the combined efforts of both of our Manhattan based representatives, working together on our behalf, to provide us with responsive and fair dealing by RIOC.
Please select no more than 3 issues from the numbered list to insert here.
Sign up today to speak in person at the upcoming hearing which will be held at 4 PM on Tuesday, February 7th, at Hunter College, Kaye Playhouse, 695 Park Avenue (on 68th Street between Park and Lexington.) at http://nyirc.gov/meetings
An in-person meeting for all interested parties will take place here on Roosevelt Island, on Thursday, January 19, at the Senior Center at 546 Main Street. Please email me at email@example.com if you plan to attend. Please indicate “Redistrict Meeting” in your subject line.
Share this request with every Roosevelt Islander you know!
Here are four candidates who are fighting to define consent in our laws:
Defining consent will turn our unenumerated human right of consent into an enumerated civil right backed by law! Yet NO STATE actually defines the noun CONSENT in our laws.
Society needs legislators who will #CodifyConsent in order to defeat antiquated, blame-the-victim concepts. By doing so, they will help protect our legal right to abortion and conquer sexual assault, sex trafficking, and domestic violence. Defining consent is the fuel to ignite meaningful change!
The Consent Awareness Network (CAN) will amplify the outreach of every candidate who signs this pledge. You simply need to provide your name and your state in the comment section below:
“If elected, I pledge to define CONSENT clearly in our laws so that every prosecutor, judge, juror, defense counsel, would-be predator, and individual in my jurisdiction, knows that CONSENT is a freely given, knowledgeable and informed agreement, by a person with the capacity to reason!”
For all voters….
Share this pledge with every candidate for office to raise awareness and make an educated decision about your vote!
On August 24th, His Honor, thanks to the advocacy of Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright, visited Roosevelt Island and got an earful on the issues the community faces – not the least of which was redistricting. Roosevelt Islander blogger Rick O’Connor posted the video on his YouTube channel.
His ask…… “I’m a list person; make me a list!”
Main St. Dems will do exactly that! We’re looking for input from you to tell us what should go on this important list. Don’t be shy. Fill out the following form today. You don’t need to be a registered Democrat to do so. Make your suggestions by Sunday, October 9th. Please stick to issues specifically for Roosevelt Island for example:
We need a medical facility here.
We need a bank.
We need to be able to elect the folks who run the community.
Our City Council Representative must be a Manhattan Representative.
We need at least 1 NYPD Officer here 24/7.
We need a Citizens Complaint Review Board to review complaints against the Public Safety Dept.
Keep the 102 bus route.
We need more shops and restaurants.
Be sure to repeat any of the above to amplify their message. You can simply state their numbers. And add more to the growing list.
Share this post with every Roosevelt Islander you know!
If you want your interests supported by others, make sure you speak with people who can support them, and encourage their cooperation with this effort. We’re keeping track!
The NYC Districting Commission is tasked with dividing NYC’s population of 8.8 million into 51 districts of 172,882 residents. They have shifted Roosevelt Island’s Council Representation from District 5 in Manhattan to District 26 in Queens. To see more on the problems this creates for our community, and provide comments to the commission, please use this link.
While the Commission’s hearings are in the rearview mirror- our community’s need for more comments and letters continues – right up to the final date for submission of the Commission’s ultimate plan, on December 7th.
OCTOBER 7, 2022: Deadline for the Commission to make its revised plan available to the public
NOVEMBER 7, 2022: Commission must hold at least one public hearing prior to this date
DECEMBER 7, 2022: Districting Commission must submit its final plan to the Council
FEBRUARY 28, 2023: Beginning of petitioning process for City Council primary election
JANUARY 6, 2024: Districting Commission term ends
As I left the hearing on August 22nd, I was intercepted in the building’s lobby by the gentleman who actually reads and organizes the comments for the Commission. He informed me that Roosevelt Island had submitted more comments than any other area of NYC! The total of our comments grouped with the rest of District 5, was greater than all of NYC put together!
But we still need more!
We can’t rest on our laurels! We have a community to protect!
Roosevelt Island has unique needs, such as the necessity for the Roosevelt Island Tramway to be in one, and only one, council district, and to have a Manhattan City Council Member’s support to secure Manhattan permits whenever they are essential for repairs, maintenance, and capital improvements for our vital, indeed unique, commuter link.
If you have yet to send your comment to the Commission, please do so right away! Tap this link for all the information you need!
We not only need to continue our letter-writing campaign, but to reach out to each person on the Commission directly. If you are acquainted with any of the following people, please let me know, immediately at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dennis M. Walcott, Chair Yovan Samuel Collado Hon. Marilyn D. Go Kevin John Hanratty Maria Mateo, Esq. Joshua Schneps Lisa Sorin Msgr. Kevin Sullivan Kai-Ki Wong Maf Misbah Uddin Michael Schnall Kristen Johnson Gregory W. Kirschenbaum Marc Wurzel Dr. Darrin K. Porcher
What does Mayor Eric Adams think of redistricting?
On August 24th, His Honor, thanks to the advocacy of Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright, visited the community and got an earful on the issues the community faces – not the least of which was redistricting. Blogger Rick O’Connor posted the video on his YouTube channel.
His ask…… “I’m a list person, make me a list!”
Main St. Dems will do exactly that. We’re looking for input from you to tell us what should go on that important list. Don’t be shy. Fill out the following form today.
All Roosevelt Islanders, no matter what age, political party, or even immigration status, are eligible to speak up about their redistricting concerns. The Districting Commission of NY City has proposed new district lines for City Council Representatives that ends the community’s 50 year association with our Manhattan Council Member and connects us with one in Queens. To read more about the problems caused by this redistricting effort, tap on this link.
The Main Street Democratic Club and the Roosevelt Island Committee of Community Board 8 have joined forces to help galvanize the community’s protest.
Residents are invited to send letters to the Commission and to testify in the upcoming hearings. Testimony can take the form of letters, emails, Zoom calls, and in-person appearances. This link will help you with your letters and comments to the commission.
Coalescing Roosevelt Island’s Resolve
The community’s collective protest at the Manhattan hearing, has been organized for Monday, August 22nd from 5:30 to 9 PM. All speakers must register in advance. Here is the link to do so. If you are arriving by our community bus, (see below,) please request a 6:15 time slot for your testimony.
We encourage as many residents as possible to attend the Monday, 8/22, hearing, in order to show our collective strength; however, you can attend any of the redistricting hearings. They are all listed below. We also encourage everyone attending the hearings to wear Roosevelt Island RED!
You can attend the hearings to testify, or simply to support your neighbors who’ll be doing so. Feel free to applaud their efforts! Speakers will have a 3 minute allotment of time. You must bring your vaccination record or a same-day negative Covid test. The Commission can run out of speaker spots so sign up as soon as possible!
It is helpful to write your comment in advance and bring two copies… one for yourself – reading it is fine – and one for the commission’s records.
Speaking by Zoom
The same link will enable you to give testimony by zoom. Simply indicate “Virtually by Zoom” when you reach the “Testifying” choices.
All Hearing Locations:
Tues., Aug. 16 5:30 pm to 9 pm Museum of the Moving Image, Sumner Redstone Theater, 36-01 35 Ave., Astoria, Queens 11106
Wed., Aug. 17 5:30 pm to 9 pm Lehman College (CUNY), Gillet Auditorium, 250 Bedford Park Blvd West, The Bronx, 10468
Thurs., Aug. 18 5:30 pm to 9 pm Staten Island Borough Hall, 10 Richmond Terrace, Rm 125, Staten Island, 10301
Sun., Aug 21 3:30 pm to 7 pm Medgar Evers College (CUNY), School of Science Health & Technology, Dining Hall, 1638 Bedford Ave., Brooklyn, 11225
Mon., Aug. 22 5:30 pm to 9 pm Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, 515 Malcolm X Blvd., Harlem, Manhattan, 10037
Last week’s Zoom Meeting
Our efforts are supported by Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and Council Member Julie Menin. Both have provided compelling arguments in favor of our position to the Districting Commission. Congresswoman Maloney knocked it out of the park with the Island-specific letter posted below.
Use this link to view highlights from our recent Zoom meeting with our legislators and allies, such as our District Committeewoman, Rebecca Weintraub.
A free bus (contributions welcomed but not required) has been arranged for 44 people who request a seat using the following form. It will leave from Good Shepherd Plaza, next to 531 Main Street, at 4:15 PM Monday evening. Priority will be given to residents who are providing testimony. The remaining seats are available for folks who are cheering us on! You’ll be notified of your reservation.
The bus is not equipped for wheelchairs. (Connect with RIDA on their efforts to supply transportation.) The hearings are accessible for people with physical disabilities. Signing interpreters and language interpreters can be arranged by contacting email@example.com or calling 212-442-0256 at least 5 days prior to the hearing.
Bring signs! Wear red! Show the commission that we’re a community of Manhattan residents, not a political football!
Fill out the following form to reserve one seat. If you need more, please indicate the names of the additional people you are reserving seats for in the space that asks if you are registered as a speaker.
Roe v. Wade established that no one had the right to force a woman into carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term. As a Baby Boomer, I have vivid memories of the days before abortions were legalized. I recall my mother’s screams as she lay on the kitchen table undergoing the at-home procedure that terminated the pregnancy she and my father did not want. No hospital provided a medicated alternative.
Very shortly after that, when “the pill” was experimental, my mother volunteered for a “trial” so neither she, nor anyone else, would ever have to suffer such a procedure. The elevated testosterone in the early trials was deadly…. causing cancer.
At 37, with no history of cancer in our family, Mom was diagnosed with rapidly growing, grade 4 breast cancer. Her treatments included a radical mastectomy, radiation treatments, chemotherapy, loss of her lymph nodes, and a partial hysterectomy. There was no option for reconstructive surgery back then.
A few years later, she suffered through the same procedures as her cancer spread to her other breast. Still undefeated, it invaded her lungs and her brain stem. She ultimately succumbed to the cancer that ravaged her frail body, after stoically battling for 12 years.
My mom, Louise Pelton Short, was an unsung casualty of life without the availability of legal, medical abortion. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think of her and the many lessons she taught me about unconditional love, character, and morality. On Mother’s Day, and everyday, I miss her warm embrace, remember her smile, and listen to her guiding voice.
The Roe vs. Wade Disaster
SCOTUS is basing it’s objections to Roe on inappropriate interpretations of law. The Mississippi Gestational Age Act deliberately refers to a fetus as an “unborn human being.” Science tells us there is absolutely no way a fetus can sustain itself until well into its 2nd trimester, at 22 weeks. The concept of every fetus, regardless of gestational age, being an “unborn human being” is completely theoretical and based on religious belief, not science. SCOTUS is supposed to protect our rights to our religious beliefs which are clearly granted by the first amendment.
Justice Alito’s comments further misstate the connection between abortion, sexual relations, contraception, and marriage. While he agrees that the 14th amendment applies to the later three constructs, he refutes that the same “protection of liberty” granted by the 14th amendment applies to abortion.
Will someone please give his honor a lesson on the birds and the bees!!
He further states that our constitution demands that the states should take control of abortion law because state legislation reflects “citizens trying to persuade one another and then voting.” He fails to acknowledge that our federal checks and balances are the ultimate oversight over our rights and freedoms. He is abdicating the responsibility of the court to protect the opinions of the majority of US citizens. A CBS News Poll reports that 62% of our population does not want Roe vs. Wade overturned.
How did we get this way?
The imbalance created by our electoral system made governance by the minority over the majority a reality. Trump stacked the court, not out of concern about abortion, he had none. He simply needed to enlist Evangelists, bigots, and religious zealots to win the Presidency, so he traded our civil rights for election support.
His lack of morality has led us down this diabolical path where a woman’s self determination over her body is about to be unraveled by judges whose dubious sexual conduct show total disregard for CONSENT.
Justice Alito, and the additional justices who subscribe to this immoral grab of religious and commonsense freedom, have the Dark Ages opinion that a woman, and her chastity, are objects to be controlled. While they claim to be saving human life, they are, indeed, destroying the lives of countless women and girls.
CONSENT is at the heart of EVERYTHING pertaining to your property and bodily autonomy.
Our federal laws, and our state laws must protect every competent person’s right to consent on all matters. Whether your choices pertain to your property or your body, consent is always the same… freely given, knowledgeable and informed agreement, by a person with the capacity to reason, #FGKIA.
CONSENT is the human right basis for true freedom, and must become a civil right in all matters concerning who, when, and what you allow regarding your reproductive system.
What can you do?
Sign CAN’s petition! Call you legislator! Demand that they #CodifyConsent into law today, not only to protect you from rape, sexual assault, sex trafficking, and domestic violence, but also to protect your right to choice regarding abortion. Do it for all the Moms in the world…. present, past and future!
Today, Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg and Senator Cordell Cleare announced the intro of Bills #S8722 and #S8723 in the NY State Senate. They are intended to prosecute against sex trafficking children and mentally disabled victims. They eliminate the statute of limitations on this B-Felony crime, extend the statute of limitations for civil cases, and add mentally disabled folks to the coverage for children.
Bravo, on one hand, with a capital “B” for “But” on the other!
These bills show exactly why our justice system is broken. #S8723 clearly states the intent is to: “increase penalties in a very narrow scope of crimes.”
Why deliberately keep protection narrow?
This language reflects the systemic mindset of our legal establishment and legislators to cow tow to pressures about “allocations” when addressing crimes. This knee-jerk reaction against expanding penal code reflects that they claim costs could sky-rocket out of control….. “How can our budgets handle the influx of these cases?”
“Allocations” is not only a nonsensical and totally unproven objection, if it actually were true, it would flatly demonstrate the need for change. The very concept that prosecutors consider it may be true, is positive proof of the awful fact that finances outweigh public safety in their minds, and the minds of the legislators we empower to protect us.
Instead of providing commonsense protections to ALL victims of sex trafficking, they confine improvements to the few.
What about the cost to victims?
The National Sexual Violence Resource Center estimates the costs of rape (and sex trafficking is yet another form of rape) at 3.1 trillion dollars.
Yes, of course we should protect children and our most vulnerable population. That’s a slam dunk! But what about the huge volume of sex trafficked individuals who do not fall within these stated categories. Ignoring their needs is a glaring omission.
#S8722 and #S8723 are low-hanging fruit bills that recognize the crime, but turn their back on the vast majority of victims. Whatever happened to the 14th amendment that granted EQUAL PROTECTION for ALL!!
And where is consent?
The following is a portion of DA Bragg’s statement regarding the bills:
Expanding Statutes of Limitations
Trauma, fear, and cultural stigmas frequently lead survivors to delay reporting to law enforcement. New York has recognized this issue by eliminating the statutes of limitation for B-felony sexual offenses, including first-degree rape and incest, as well as aggravated sexual abuse, and course of sexual conduct against a child. Similarly, in 2019 New York extended the period in which survivors of child sexual violence can commence a civil suit.
Truly, “trauma, fear, and cultural stigmas” impede a victim’s interest in reporting a crime. But this insight fails to recognize the greatest deterrent of all…. these cases re-traumatize the victim because our penal laws fail to define consent. Instead, they base whether or not the victim consented on their words and conduct instead of recognizing that no matter what they said or did, if the accused maliciously influenced them to say or do those things, they did not consent.
Victims don’t come forward in a broken justice system that rips them to shreds instead of focusing on the influence of the accused. Only by correctly defining consent as “freely given, knowledgeable and informed agreement” in our penal code, can victims rely on the justice system to do its job. We must make this transformational change.
Providing survivors with a pathway to court, without the court having the tools to hold their offender accountable, is like handing a homeless person an empty refrigerator.
You can help!
Call DA Bragg at 212-335-9000, and NY State Senator Cordell Cleare at 212-222-7315, and say- “Regarding #S8722 /23; Please don’t leave adult victims behind!”
Then call your state and federal legislators. Demand change! Demand that they #CodifyConsent today! And if you want change in YOUR state, and you’re willing to roll up your sleeves to get it done, contact us at info@ConsentAwareness.net.
Calling your legislators to demand change will make all the difference in the world!
The first Tuesday of every April is the DAY of ACTION for Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Exactly one year ago, the very first bill to define CONSENT was publicly introduced at a news conference in New York City.
On this year’s #SAAM Day of Action- Tuesday, April 5th – the most impactful action YOU can take is to CALL YOUR LEGISLATORS and DEMAND CHANGE!
YOU can help offset the ignorance in our justice system by putting the definition for CONSENT at the top of every legislator’s agenda for transformational change!
Here’s all it takes:
On Tuesday, April 5th, call your legislator and say:
“I am your constituent. I want you to introduce the bill that will define CONSENT as “Freely Given, Knowledgeable and Informed Agreement” into our state’s penal code, today!”
CAN enlightens legislators around the nation to influence change. If you’d like to change the laws in your state or jurisdiction, contact us at Info@ConsentAwareness.net to get the ball rolling. We can bring the heavy artillery to compel the changes you need in your location!
While phone calls have the greatest impact on legislators emails leave a lasting impression. You can easily search online to find the email addresses of your local legislators and their Chiefs of Staff. We suggest you email both in order to secure a response.
Here’s a prototype of an email you can copy and paste:
Sexual Assault, Sex Trafficking, and Domestic Violence are only some of the many horrors victims suffer because our justice system is broken. Our laws must accurately define CONSENT as the “Freely Given, Knowledgeable and Informed Agreement, #FGKIA” that it is, in order to hold sexual predators accountable and secure justice for their victims.
I am reaching out to you to be a leader in the change to protect the public. I am interested in securing a date for a Zoom call with you, the Consent Awareness Network (CAN), and several of the survivors of high profile cases, in order to correct the dangerous flaw in our current penal law.
Please contact me with your availability for a date and time for this discussion.
CC: Info@ConsentAwareness.net to keep us in the loop for follow ups.
Bill 1079 which just passed in both the Indiana House and Senate shows utter, complete ignorance masquerading as progress! The sponsors claim they are defining consent without even mentioning the word consent in their statute!
What’s more, HB1079 embeds the antiquated concept that “No means No” into Indiana’s laws! Neither “No means No,” nor “Yes means Yes,” will do!
Consent is “freely given, knowledgeable and informed agreement. #FGKIA! Consent is a noun.
“To consent” is a verb which means “to convey consent to another.” You can’t convey consent to another (the verb) unless consent (the noun) is actually taking place.
Parents teach consent lessons to their kids every day:
“Don’t hit your sister.”
“Don’t scare your little brother!”
“Don’t trick your friends into giving you their toys!”
“Don’t sneak cookies while I take my nap.”
How you take ill-gotten gains matters! Rape is securing sexual contact through ill-gotten means. Nothing ill-gotten is given consensually.
The influence of the offender, how they go about getting your compliance, not the words and actions of the victim, determine whether a rape takes place. Using malicious influence is not okay. Under Indiana’s pending statute, they pick and choose specific types of ill-gotten sexual compliance, and ignore the rest. Plugging up a single loophole, among the myriad of loopholes that exist, is antiquated, dinosaur thinking!
The framers of 1079 know this. CAN participated in a “interim study” on consent conducted by the Indiana legislature back in 2020. Here is the video wepresented at their hearing. It was the very first video aired that day.
In addition, we had considerable discussions with the bill’s sponsors and was involved in the effort to define consent correctly when Donald Grant Ward admitted to rape by fraud, but was exonerated under Indiana’ s statutes. In fact, this case was the lead story in my TEDx Talk. The Indiana legislature refused to consider defining consent back then.
1079’s new modification will say you can’t force, threaten force, exploit incapacity, (which already existed) or proceed when the person says “no,” (new concept.) But what about all those victims that freeze without saying no? What about the victim who agrees because they think the rapist is someone else? What about the victim who agrees because the offender is their boss and they think they’ll lose their job? What about the fertility doctor who implants his own sperm instead of your choice of sperm from the options you received? What about the man who stealthily removes his condom when you agreed to protected sex?
Don’t get me wrong…. whenever you say “No,” your decision must be respected. But whether or not you say no should not be the deciding factor in whether or not you were raped. Your maliciously influenced utterances or actions are not the key. You were sexually assaulted if the offender used malicious influence to engage in sexual contact with you, even if they motivated you to say “yes” or comply.
Indiana’s laws should say so. And Indiana’s laws should ascribe a “degree” of harm based on the type of malicious influence that was used. Aggravated cases, cases that use violence, weapons or threats of violence or weapons, are the more egregious and should carry maximum sentences as 1st degree felonies. Other malicious influences such as non-physical threats or fraud should be lesser crimes like class D felonies or Class A misdemeanors.
Accurately defining consent in Indiana’s laws, as the freely given, knowledgeable and informed agreement that it is, would establish the human right of consent for the people of Indiana in all sexual conduct. It would eliminate every legal loophole. Instead, they are claiming they are defining consent without doing so, and they know it.
It’s truly an insult to society to claim a law does something it does not. 1079 absolutely does NOT define consent! It only acknowledges that when someone creates obvious opposition, they’re not consenting. Defrauding the public into thinking they’re defining consent when they’re not shows exactly how poorly 1079’s framers understand the meaning of consent.
Sadly, The NY Times misquoted me and grossly distorted CAN’s mission in the article that appeared in the Sunday, October 10, 2021 Arts section.
“Yes” is an affirmative reply. There is nothing unambiguous about saying “yes.” It never means “maybe,” and it never means “no.” Unless “yes” is used as an interrogatory, for example, if I called your name and you asked, “Yes?”……. yes always means yes. But yes does not always mean, I consent.
CAN’s message has always been: “Consent is freely given, knowledgeable and informed agreement.” As such, it is the influence of the party seeking sexual engagement that determines whether or not you consent. They cannot achieve your consent by malicious or derisive influence.
The current bill pending in NY Assembly, #A6540A (and its companion in the NY Senate, #S6200A) clearly state that consent is freely given, knowledgeable and informed agreement. CAN crafted that language and the wording in a similar bill for Pennsylvania which has yet to be introduced.
Regarding the NY Times Article
Mr. Bowley wrote a supportive article about Andrea Constand’s new book, The Moment. He approached me for a comment and, as we spoke, he enthusiastically stated that he would also like to write about #A6540A. I spent numerous hours responding to his questions by phone, text and email.
Instead of his article focusing on #A6540A, which he barely mentioned, he focused on a contrary concept which currently exists in law, and which some additional states are currently considering for their statutes. The underlying concept of the contrary law is that consent depends on an unambiguous yes.
Since all “yeses” are unambiguous, as clarified above, this vicitm-blaming concept means that anytime you say “yes” you are consenting. CAN is emphatically opposed to this concept, but Mr. Bowley’s article falsely makes it seem that we support it.
What seems to escape the understanding of supporters of the unambiguous yes concept, is that if your actions or words are affirmative, but you are being forced, tricked, or scared into those actions or words, you are not consenting, no matter how emphatically you are stating “yes.” Because the definition for consent never changes, consent is the same when giving consent for medical treatments, protecting your data on the internet, and is the determining factor in every other crime…. including sexual assault.
By defining consent simply and correctly as freely given, knowledgeable and informed agreement, society would be enabled to see that there are different types of agreement, but only consent legalizes sexual conduct.
An “unambiguous yes” achieved through fraud is “assenting”; providing agreement on the face of it.
An “unambiguous yes” achieved through forcible compulsion or threat of harm is “acquiescing”; providing agreement under duress.
But neither assenting nor acquiescing are consenting; providing agreement that is freely given, knowledgeable and informed.
Mr. Bowley frames my opinion as supporting “unambiguous yes,” when, indeed and emphatically, I do not!
Over two years ago, when CAN was speaking with legislators in Pennsylvania, I invited Cheryl Carmel to join us. Cheryl was the Foreperson for the 2nd Bill Cosby jury. She watched my TEDx Talk, which is clear about CAN’s position, and agreed to join our meeting.
First-hand accounts are more impactful than third person stories. My interest in inviting Cheryl was for her to relate to the legislators we had gathered that the Cosby judge could not respond with a definition for consent when the jurors asked. When I saw the jaws drop of all the legislators and staffers around the table, I felt assured I’d made the right call by inviting Cheryl. I conveyed this to Mr. Bowley.
Mr. Bowley quoted me as saying: “I recognized it was important to bring Cheryl to the meetings with the legislators because she could really explain,” said Ms. Short.
What Cheryl explained, which I had made clear to Mr. Bowley, was solely the specific description of what the jury asked about consent, and what the judge responded. She had no part in defining what consent is, or should be, and neither stated a preference for “unambiguous yes,” to the legislators in Pennsylvania, nor to CAN’s representatives. She did not do so at the two meetings we invited her to, and she had no further discussions with legislators.
CAN worked diligently to craft the language that the legislative bill drafting committee used in PA, and has continued to fight for the correct definition for consent in additional states such as New York, New Jersey, and Utah. “Unambiguous yes” supports sexual predators who use all manner of malicious influence to drag a “yes” out of the mouths of their victims.
#MeToo’s Impact on Defining Consent
Bowley ties CAN’s efforts to #MeToo, which is another distortion. While we appreciate #MeToo’s ability to focus awareness on the volume of sexual assaults, our efforts to define consent in society’s laws long precedes #MeToo’s 2017 entry to the sexual assault narrative. We continue to fight for the correct definition in order to guide behavior and hold sexual predators accountable.
People Have a Right to Their Opinions
Unfortunately, opinions can be misguided, and I believe that the concept of unambiguous yes is a relic from an era in which women were chattel and sexual entertainment for their husbands. Unambiguous yes fails to hold offenders accountable for derisive or malicious influence. It puts the blame on the victim’s shoulders for their words and actions that result from such influence.
The one sure way of conveying what consent is, by law, is to simply define the word consent in our statutes. Anything short of that panders to predators. Doing so will be a paradigm shift that will affect how the public conducts itself.
Mr. Bowley’s article, rather than focusing on the clarity of #A6540A, (as he had stated he was doing,) conflates CAN’s mission with concepts we diametrically oppose….. giving oxygen to ignorance.
There was a time, all too recently, when politicians got to hide their immorality behind a cloak of positive gains for their constituents. New York State’s Governor Andrew Cuomo’s downfall exemplifies the sea change society is experiencing, where rising to public office demands walking the walk as well as talking the talk.
American history is rife with immorality. For centuries, our leaders were lauded despite their extramarital affairs, bigotry, and other immoral/illegal conduct. Only a few short years back, the two leaders of the NY State Senate and Assembly, Dean Skelos and Sheldon Silver, were both tried, and convicted of criminal charges. Two Governors left in shame, Elliott Spitzer and David Paterson.
I vividly recall the arguments between my mother and father at our dinner table when John F. Kennedy ran for President. His skirt-chasing was legendary, long before he was elected. My father argued that personal behavior had nothing to do with his ability to lead.
That was the time we lived in. For constituents with emotional empathy and conscience, those days are gone. We no longer close our eyes and separate the art from the artist.
Leaders must do more than provide gains. They set the standards of morality for our youth. They are the images that our children emulate. When their morality is flawed, they teach our children that bad behavior is acceptable, as long as you “get away with it.” In our techno-universe, information spreads like wildfire, unveiling personal character, and corrupting the character of the next generation.
No question about it…….
Governor Cuomo made monumental gains for New York. From building bridges, improving our commuter system, passing minimum wage requirements, creating marriage equality, and so much more, he was a champion. But he failed to recognize his responsibility to be a person our children could admire and emulate. By ignoring his obligation to secure consent from women who he found attractive, he showed that New York’s failure to correctly define consent in penal law, starts at the top, then trickles down throughout the ranks to legislative dinosaurs just like him.
It’s not only time to part with Governor Cuomo, but to ferret out the additional legislators with the same archaic mindset that prevents “consent” from being clearly defined in our laws!
We need to contact every NY legislator and ask, #WillYouCodifyConsent? Only re-elect those who respond #IWillCodifyConsent!
It’s way past time to make the transformational change that enables our growing generation to comprehend what CONSENT actually means, so we can hand them a world where we’ve conquered sexual assault!
Consent is freely given, knowledgeable and informed agreement. #FGKIA! This definition should appear in every penal code across the US and around the world!
Why the Supreme Court of PA overturned Cosby’s guilty verdict baffles the mind!
Justice Wecht wrote the court’s opinion. Although their decision claims District Attorney Bruce Castor gave Cosby immunity from criminal prosecution, he totally lacked authority to do so. His authority only extended to whether or not he would prosecute the accused. A determination of “immunity,” however, according to Pennsylvania’s statutes, must be made by a judge. No such determination was granted.
Any Pennsylvania judge, including the four rape apologists who favored the opinion to vacate, Justices Todd, Donahue, Wecht and Mundy, could and should have known better.
Cosby’s defense attorney, equally at fault in guiding his client, advised Cosby that because he was not being prosecuted, he did not have the right to plead the fifth amendment during the civil trial. During his civil depositions, Cosby admitted he engaged in sexual contact with Constand – after administering drugs that rendered her incapacitated.
Fortunately, three of the Supreme Court Justices expressed dissenting opinions, Justices Dougherty, Baer and Saylor.
“I begin by addressing an underlying issue that the majority says little about but which I believe looms large: Castor’s apparent belief that, as an elected district attorney, he could forever preclude his successors from prosecuting Cosby.”
He goes on to say: “And it would effectively assign pardon power to District Attorneys, something this Court has already rejected as unconstitutional.”
Justice Dougherty, also disputed the remedy of vacating the judgment, as stated in Justice Wecht’s opinion which says: “He must be discharged, and any future prosecution on these particular charges must be barred.”
Rather, Justice Dougherty makes a solid case for suppressing Castor’s illegally obtained evidence and supports doing so by stating: “So drastic a step” merely increase[s] to an intolerable degree interference with the public interest in having the guilty brought to book.” Blue, 384 U.S. at 255.6
“I respectfully disagree with the majority’s determination that the press release issued by former District Attorney Bruce Castor contained an unconditional promise that the Commonwealth would not prosecute Appellant in perpetuity. See Majority Opinion, slip op. at 50-52, 60-64. Rather, I read the operative language — “District Attorney Castor declines to authorize the filing of criminal charges in connection with this matter” — as a conventional public announcement of a present exercise of prosecutorial discretion by the temporary occupant of the elected office of district attorney that would in no way be binding upon his own future decision-making processes, let alone those of his successor.”
The determination of the Supreme Court of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania can only be overturned by the Supreme Court of the United States. Four Commonwealth of Pennsylvania justices have granted unconstitutional pardon power to the District Attorney. If there were ever a sexual assault case that warranted review by the highest court in the land, this is it!
Both #A6540A and #S6200A clearly state the definition for CONSENT in penal code. Presently, not a single state across the US provides this important definition. These bills are pending right now and need your support! Here is the actual wording from both bills:
Section 1. Section 10.00 of the penal law is amended by adding a new subdivision 22 to read as follows:
22. “Consent” means a freely given, knowledgeable and informed agreement.
Society needs absolute clarity on the meaning of consent to hold offenders of every crime accountable. “Consent” appears over 100 times in the Penal Code of New York State with NO DEFINITION! Defining consent in NY will echo across all boundaries and change the world!
Both bills, one in the Senate, and one in the Assembly, will establish that the definition for consent never changes, no matter what conduct is taking place. Consent is always:
“Freely given, knowledgeable and
informed agreement! “
The correct definition for consent will be applied in all crimes; sex trafficking, revenge porn, cyber fraud, theft, larceny, kidnapping, and more. It will protect people of all genders, religions, and national origins. It will prevent the victim-blaming that defense attorneys use to discredit victims and shred their character in sexual assault and rape cases.
Write to the appropriate legislators!
The following links can be used to create your own wording to reach the sponsoring legislators directly. Your voice will make a meaningful difference in conquering sexual assault and all crimes in which consent is a factor.
Dear Assembly Member Seawright and Senator Sanders,
Thank you for introducing NY State Bill #A6540 and NY State Bill #S6200. I wholeheartedly support passing these aforementioned bills.
Defining consent in our laws is absolutely crucial in providing equal protection for all. Society needs to know and be guided by the following definition:
“Consent means: Freely Given, Knowledgeable and Informed Agreement”
And because this is the actual definition for consent, the use of malice to influence a victim’s compliance can never be considered consent in any crime. Our statutes must be clear on the definition for this important word that appears over 100 times in the penal law of New York State.
If House Bill #5, introduced by Representative Geran Tarr passes, it surely will be! Your chance to stop this archaic, harmful rape mentality from embedding in the penal code of yet another state is tomorrow, April 13th, at 3 PM PST.
The language in Rep. Tarr’s bill states:
“Sec. 6. AS 11.41.470 is amended by adding a new paragraph to read: (9) “consent” means a freely given, reversible agreement specific to the conduct at issue; in this paragraph, “freely given” means agreement to cooperate in the act was positively expressed by word or action.”
CONSENT is just plain commonsense- and this bill does not accurately define what consent is. Consent is accurately defined in Nuremberg Code, General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR,) and NY State Assembly Bill #A6540:
“Consent is freely given, knowledgeable and informed agreement.” #FGKIA
Please note that consent can only occur when the parties to the agreement have the capacity to reason, therefore, a child who has not attained the age of reason, someone mentally compromised, or incapacitated by drugs or alcohol, is not capable of consent, even if they agree.
Correctly defining consent makes it crystal clear that the offender cannot maliciously extort agreement, regardless of the words and conduct of the victim, and claim that they had the victim’s consent.
It’s time our laws rip off Penal Code’s consent-blinders that make sexual assault the fault of the victim!
HB#5 fails to consider power differentials or deceptions that would cause the victim to act in diametric opposition to their will and their interests. And it fails to consider that the offender knows they have extorted agreement maliciously even when victims, themselves, do not.
Under Rep Tarr’s bill, the defense can argue against coercion and fraud on the basis that the victim’s words and actions signaled agreement. This language is the root of why defense attorneys are able to tear into the character and behavior of the victim to defend their client against rape and sexual assault charges. No other crime on the planet makes the victim responsible for the harm they suffered.
How can you help?
Tomorrow, April 13th, at 3 PM, GMT-8, (Anchorage Time) a live legislative hearing will take place in Alaska on HB#5. You can watch the hearing on this link. Be sure to tap the “Live Now” tab.
You can call the legislature to express your opinion at the hearing . The legislators will be listening. Here are the numbers you can dial, depending on where you are located:
Be sure to convey that the words and actions of the victim should never be on trial. The words and actions of the offender, who influenced the decision making processes of the victim, are what constitutes the crime.
Stop consent blindness from becoming Alaska’s law, and help open every state’s eyes to the archaic use of “words and actions” to determine when rape or sexual assault takes place.! Sex crimes happen when sexual predators exploit their victims for carnal contact.
Here is the statement I will be making during today’s hearing if I’m able to secure access. Feel free to use any portion of it in the statement or email you introduce:
“I’d like to thank each legislator for your time and consideration today.
I’m Joyce Short. I am the author of “Your Consent, the Key to Conquering Sexual Assault” and the founder of the Consent Awareness Network. While there is nothing I’d like better than embracing a bill to prevent sexual assault, I cannot support HB5. And the reason is:
HB5 creates a contradiction that will embed rape mentality in Alaska’s penal code.
HB5 correctly defines consent as freely given agreement. Therefore, by its very nature, such agreement cannot be achieved through malice such as force, fear or fraud. I like to call them “the three f-words” than should never take place in sexual conduct.
It is the conduct of the accused, in securing agreement……in other words, did they employ a malicious means to secure their victim’s agreement, which separates sex from sexual assault; not the words and actions of their victim,….. the criteria stated in HB5.
HB5 clearly states the freedom to choose, free of undue influence, and the disregard for this freedom together in the very same provision.
The words and actions of the accused determine whether they committed murder, larceny, kidnapping, theft, and a host of other crimes. By including, in sexual assault law, that the words and conduct of the victim determine whether a rape or sexual assault takes place, HB5 contradicts the premise that consent must be freely given, and instead, blames the victim for their own rape and defilement.
Agreement from a person who is scared into agreeing is acquiescence. Agreement by a person who is defrauded into agreeing is assent. In fact Missouri’s rape in the 2nd degree statute states clearly that Assent is not Consent when induced by force, duress or deception.
All offenders know whether they are using malice to gain compliance from their victim. The use of Force, fear and fraud is premeditated. It does not occur accidentally. Whether or not the accused used malice to gain access to the victim should be the single determining factor in whether or not they committed a sex crime…… not what the victim said or did that resulted from that malice.
I urge legislators to adopt the definition for consent proposed in Assembly bill A6540 in NY. The identical bill is also awaiting an index number in New Jersey, and has been drafted and awaits introduction in Pennsylvania.
And I further urge legislators to strike the rape mentality that blames victims, not the offender whose premeditated malice stripped them of their self-worth and shattered their trust.
Failure to do so enables defense attorneys to shred the character of the victim on the stand. Removal creates trials in which the conduct of the offender, not their victim, determines their guilt or innocence.
I am readily available to discuss this issue further with any legislator who is interested.
A person’s body is not the offender’s entitlement. It’s where they live. Alaska’s laws should protect the bodily autonomy of every resident or visitor to your great state whether male or female.
Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright recently introduced Assembly Bill #A6540, Defining Consent, in New York’s general laws. This definition should echo throughout the halls of justice in every state and territory across the US and around the world! It will set the record straight on consentin all crimes, place responsibility for sexual assault, rape, and sex trafficking on the shoulders of the offender, and prevent the victim-blaming concepts that have been ingrained in our sexual assault laws for centuries.
Why is this important to you even if you’re not a New Yorker?
All legislation begins because one legislator is brave enough to make a difference! Assembly Member Seawright has stepped up to do so. Once one jurisdiction codifies a code, it opens the door for others to follow and illuminates their path.
Currently, no US state or territory defines the word “consent” in its laws. This deficiency makes prosecuting sexual predators extremely difficult and fails to provide the guidance to hold them accountable. #A6540 not only defines consent in sexual assault, but in every crime covered in penal code, the word “consent” will be recognized as “Freely Given, Knowledgeable and Informed Agreement, #FGKIA.”
A press conference to introduce the bill to media took place at the office of Asm. Rebecca Seawright at 12 noon on the Day of Action, Tuesday, April 6th.
Can you help create this monumental change?
You can log onto the webpage for the bill and give it an “aye” vote. While you’re there- please leave a comment as well!
And there’s more…..
A template is below in support of NY State Assembly Bill #A6540 and Senate Bill #6200. Or simply use this QR. It will send the email for you to the authors in both legislative houses.
Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright for Bill #A6540 . Tap this link to send an email message of your choice or from the template.
Senator James Sanders Jr. for Bill #6200. Tap this link to send an email message of your choice or from the template.
The bills are currently located in the Codes Committees for their respective houses. The members of the Assembly Committee are listed below. It is very helpful to send emails or make calls to them as well.
Every single one of them needs to know YOU support #A6540 and S6200!
April 6, 2021
I support Bill #A6540, defining consent as “freely given, knowledgeable and informed agreement!
The lessons learned from the Weinstein and Cosby trials can fix our broken justice system regarding sexual assault, and this bill creates the needed clarification. No judge should ever refuse to define consent when asked by the jury. This bill provides the accurate definition that will guide behavior and hold sexual predators accountable.
The 14th amendment of the US constitution grants everyone equal protection under the law. Sexual assault laws cannot provide equal protection unless and until every jury defines consent accurately and consistently.
The guidance provided by this bill will prevent the blame-the-victim language in our laws that enables defense attorneys to pull apart victims on the stand. It makes clear that the offender’s behavior, not the “words and actions” of the victim, such as their clothing , their prior sexual history, or even their past relationship with the offender, is the determining factor in whether consent occurred because when malice by the offender is present, consent is not.
Consent is a word with a definition. The definition does not change based on the application. No matter what you are consenting to, the definition remains the same. If you are consenting to turn your property over to someone, if you consent to taking a Covid 19 vaccination, if you consent to sexual conduct, consent is always freely given, knowledgeable and informed agreement.
Three legislative bills to deal with sexual assault have just been introduced in three individual states this month. CAN actively engaged with the legislators for each one.
In fact, to emphasize our point, we conducted Zoom calls and appeared in hearings with legislators, and we included several celebrities who understood the failure of our laws because they’re Weinstein and Cosby survivors. Our heartfelt thanks goes to Rose McGowan, Andrea Constand, Jessica Mann, Mimi Haley, Dawn Dunning and Tarale Wulff.
While the attention to sexual assault is welcome, to effect meaningful change, legislators can’t simply regurgitate flawed language that supports outdated myths!
Unfortunately, none of the three bills that were introduced contain specific, game-changing, legislative language to conquer sexual assault. Instead, while they, indeed, criminalize a specific behavior we advocated for fixing, rape by impersonation, they perpetuate the victim-blaming mentality that’s engrained in our justice system.
Your help could fix this!
When writing legislation, legislators often rely on laws that already exist in other jurisdictions and settle for copy-catting ineffective statutes. The theory behind this method is that they can defend their bill by saying…. “Well, so-and-so does it this way.”
My mother (RIP) used to say: “If so-and-so jumps off a bridge, does that mean you should do it too?”
The bill in Alaska relies on the language of federal military law to establish its consent provision. Their House Bill #5 submitted by Representative Geran Tarr on January 8, 2021, states:
Sec. 4(9) – “Consent” means a freely given, reversible agreement specific to the conduct at issue by a competent person.”
Alaska is the state with the highest rape statistics. But even their horrific numbers are outdistanced by the military in which 50% of females are sexually harassed or assaulted, with virtually no recourse. Is it really the right statute to emulate?
The military’s language falls short because it leaves out one of the most important characteristics of consent: it must be “knowledgeable and informed.” The public often makes the mistake of thinking of consent as any old form of agreement, but that’s incorrect. There are three basic types of agreement that frequently occur in sexual contact:
Assent- Agreement on the face of it,
Acquiescence- Agreement under duress,
Consent- Freely given, knowledgeable and informed agreement #FGKIA.
While “consent” can only take place between two competent people, consent does not exist when one of those people induces the other’s agreement through force, fear or fraud.
The military’s consent language fails to take into account that the offender’s artifice in inducing agreement determines which type of agreement is actually taking place. Inducing consent is the only form of agreement that makes sexual contact legal. Problem is, no state defines consent, and the federal law neglects to include that one must have competent information in order for their agreement to qualify as consent.
Larry Nassar is in jail for the rest of his life because he induced agreement through the artifice of deception. While his victims assented, agreed on the face of it, they in no way consented, freely gave knowledgeable and informed agreement. While some of his victims had not obtained the age of competence, others had done so. Regardless of their competence level, however, they were all victims of rape by fraud in the factum because the information he gave them was not competent information.
Actually, “revocable” is more to the point. But it goes without saying that because, to qualify as consent, your agreement must be “freely given,” the minute you change your mind, you are no longer consenting.
If; however, legislators feel more comfortable including the concept that consent can be withdrawn in order to emphasize the point, revoke means “to put an end to.” Reverse means “to make the opposite of what it was.”
Revoking clearly means stop, in the moment. Reversing begs the question of what actually existed in the first place and whether you can reverse your decision after the fact. Clearly, freely given knowledgeable and informed agreement can be revoked, but not reversed.
Your discovery that you were forced, coerced or tricked into thinking you were consenting is not a reversal of consent. It is a recognition that the type of agreement that actually took place was not consent to begin with because the malicious conduct of the offender prompted your agreement. The offender disrupted or overpowered your thought process, but only for so long. Our laws need to be crystal clear!
Another glaring mistake in Alaska’s bill…
Sec. 3. AS 11.41.445 is amended by adding a new subsection to read: (1) an expression of lack of consent through words or conduct means there is no consent;
Surely, you are not consenting when your words and conduct convey such. But it’s consent-blind to think that the victim’s ability to discern whether they are being sexually assaulted – in the moment – is always accurate. Saying, or acting like a “no” cannot be the only dividing line between consenting and not consenting, but that’s often how this provision is misused in a courtroom.
Larry Nassar’s victims certainly did not discern, in the moment, that they were being sexually assaulted. Sexual predators go to great lengths to undermine knowledgeable and informed agreement by all forms of deception, duplicity and artifice, that a reasonable person would have difficulty detecting.
Also, victims are often too scared, startled, traumatized, or injured to assert a refusal through words or conduct. The reliance on the victim’s words or conduct takes the responsibility for securing #FGKIA, and places responsibility for their own sexual assault squarely on the shoulders of the victim.
“Words and conduct” are a conveyance. But they can only convey consent when and if consent is actually taking place. Whether the victims knows, or does not know that the offender is undermining the elements needed for consent, the offender knows full well what they are doing. A person’s conduct is criminal because of what they do, not what their victim does. In fact, in courtrooms, victims are considered witnesses to a breech of the state’s code by the accused.
We know #FGKIA is the actual definition for consent because several currently in-force, and strictly adhered-to codes and laws tell us so….
Nuremburg Code, which establishes consent for medical treatment and experiments,
Model Penal Code which was created by the American Law Institute in 1962, and has been adopted into law in several states to protect against theft,
General Data Protection Regulation that protects your cyber-security on the internet and is international law.
All of these codes and provisions are clear that consent is Freely Given, Knowledgeable and Informed Agreement, #FGKIA.
This hazardous relic from the Roman era is what makes defining consent so vital in the struggle to conquer sexual assault. It’s a legal doctrine that means, “What’s not prohibited by law is permissible.” Defining consent by specific instances that are “not consent.” fails to cover all the ways consent does not take place. The only way to cover all the ways that consent does not take place and protect against sexual assault is to properly define consent and establish that sexual conduct without consent is a sexual assault.
Claiming that the way to determine if the victim consented or not is to judge whether they made an utterance or tried to get away…. as courts interpret “words and conduct”….. fails to consider all the varied reactions a victim could have when they’re being sexually assaulted – including freezing. It’s the remaining, ugly vestige of patriarchal, rape mentality that’s been passed down in our laws century after century. Our present law makers should make it stop, not perpetuate this victim-blaming language.
The victim’s reaction should not be on trial. The actions of the offender should be on trial. “Words and conduct” puts the victim’s actions on trial. By correctly defining consent, the offender’s efforts to maliciously suppress their victim’s resistance would be on trial.
In real life…..
Donna Rotunno, Harvey Weinstein’s lawyer, exploited the failure of the “words and actions” provision in New York’s laws, claiming that the words and actions of his victims acquitted her client. Fortunately, because five victims stepped up to establish Weinstein’s predatory behavior, he was convicted. But in cases where one victim, alone, has been harmed, the likelihood of conviction is rare. In fact the likelihood of an arrest is infinitesimal.
We’ve all known the horrible statistics, we just didn’t know why. The “why” is that our laws, that we rely on for justice, blame the victim instead.
Alaska’s bill raises fraud as an artifice but narrowly limits the application.
The 14th amendment of the US Constitution grants equal protection under the law. The public needs protection against all forms of sexual assault, not just some forms of sexual assault. Fraud is frequently used by sexual predators as their weapon of choice.
Fraud is not difficult to understand. Juries consistently determine guilt and innocence in theft by fraud cases. Fraud is not different in sexual assault by fraud cases. Here are its 5 steps:
You know you’re deceiving
You expect your victim to believe your deception
They believe your deception
They suffer harm as a result of believing your deception
Fraud can be used to create all sorts of crimes, including sexual assault. Clearly, when we understand that consent must be “knowledgeable and informed,” we can understand why defrauding a person for sex is a crime. Keep in mind that in order to prosecute a fraud case, the victim would have to have significant proof that a fraud, indeed, took place,
In addition. the prosecutor would have to be convinced that a “reasonable person” would have been deceived under the same circumstance.
The job of the jury is to act as “reasonable people,” in fraud cases and other crimes. In fact, in the Bill Cosby case, when the jury asked for the definition for “consent,” Judge Steven O’Neill responded; “You’re ‘reasonable people’; use your commonsense,” because no definition for consent exists in Pennsylvania’s laws.
HB 5’s narrow wording on sexual assault by fraud, confining the crime to “someone pretending to be another person,” is not sufficient to protect Alaskan’s from all forms of sexual assault by fraud.
Many of our legislators, principally male, think it’s trivial, even good sport, to defile a woman by defrauding her. If you look back at the immorality of our forefathers in owning slaves and conducting extramarital affairs, it’s hard to fathom how our country became the standard bearer for human rights. While we’ve abolished slavery, we still have not abolished sexual assault.
Even today- our legislators are reticent to take a clear position to prevent defilement by fraud because they either fail to see the life-changing harm in the conduct, or fear that their base fails to see it, and they will lose their support.
Our penal codes separate “sexual assault” provisions from “assault” provisions because of the devastating impacts of defilement on a person. That defilement can take place from all violations of sexual autonomy, not only violent ones.
As civilization has evolved, we’ve recognized that sexual assault can happen to men as well as women, but the stereo-typical concept that sexual assault is a “women’s problem” perpetuates dismissiveness. While our laws are clear that consent is freely given, knowledgeable and informed agreement when protecting a man’s property, we deny that the same definition applies in sexual contact.
Corrected, accurate wording, that is consistent with HB #5’s objective, is:
“Consent is freely given, revocable, knowledgeable and informed agreement, by a competent person.“
Although being “revocable ” is understood by the fact that consent must be freely given, it does not hurt to include the information for clarity.
And if, in addition, Alaska’s Penal Code stated that “Nonconsensual sex is sexual assault,” like the ItsOnUs Pledge tells us, folks in Alaska would be able to secure justice for all types of sexual assault. But instead, the bill states specific types of sexual assault, leaving abundant legal loopholes for predators to slip through.
Defining consent correctly would put all sexual predators on notice, guide their behavior, and hold them accountable.
Indiana- the new Hoosier bill
I am truly ecstatic to see the new sexual assault by fraud bill, HB 1176, gain traction in Indiana’s legislature! Back in late 2017, I began communicating with Indiana State Representative Sally Siegrist to help enact legislation for Indiana. In fact, my TEDx Talk focused on the case that served as Indiana’s “Ah-Ha Moment” for creating the bill. The information was picked up by Buzzfeed, Nightline, Inside Edition, the NY Times, and additional media outlets.
A female student at Purdue University was defrauded for sex by an imposter; a male student named Donald Grant Ward. Ward climbed in bed with her – after seeing that she was asleep and her boyfriend had left the room. She had fallen asleep in her boyfriend’s bed, with his arms embracing her. Thinking Ward, who stroked her breast, was her boyfriend, she engaged in sex. When she learned the truth, she and her boyfriend called the police.
Even though Ward readily admitted to tricking her, and confessed his intent to do so to the police, the arrest led to an acquittal because rape by deception is not a crime in Indiana. And, like every other state, Indiana has no definition for consent.
I had hoped that with Rep. Siegrist’s help, we could close the legal loophole in Indiana’s law on rape by fraud, and provide Hoosiers with greater protection against sexual assault with a clear definition of consent.
South Carolina State Representative Mandy Powers-Norell saw the Buzzfeed article that featured both myself and Rep. Siegrist. She was determined to make a difference and submitted HB 3829 last year, which died in committee.
New cast of characters
On January 7th, this year, Rep. Siegrist’s colleague, Rep. Sharon Negele, along with Rep. Donna Schaibley, and Rep. Sue Errington, introduced HB 1176 to get the job done in Indiana.
Over the summer, the Indiana legislators agreed to conduct an Interim Study on Consent. CAN submitted a video which launched the discussion, featuring myself, Tarale Wulff and Mimi Haley, both Weinstein survivors who had testified against him. Our interest was to get the over-arcing protection of “consent” codified into Indiana’s laws. The Zoom hearing contained heart-wrenching stories about the invalidation and injustice that results from Indiana’s failure to define consent.
One of those stories was presented by Liz White, a mother who’d been artificially inseminated by a doctor who lied about the sperm he was implanting. Instead of the donor he claimed, Dr. Donald Cline used his own sperm. Her research uncovered that he had fathered 90 children by defrauding his patients. He has approximately 180 grandchildren. As a result, his community is at high risk for unknowingly incestuous relationships among his offspring. Ms. White asked that the act of switching sperm by a fertility doctor be included as a sexual assault by fraud.
Sometimes, when you reach for the sun, you get to the moon.
Instead of a consent bill, a narrowly confined sexual assault by fraud bill, specifically making the sexual assault at Purdue University a crime, is finally pending.
During a recent legislative “reading” of the bill by the Codes and Courts Committee, Courtney Curtis, with IPAC, the organization representing Indiana’s Prosecutors, said that sexual assault cases in Indiana result in “disparate treatment from courtroom to courtroom.” Yet despite her statement which underscores how badly needed defining consent actually is in Indiana, she failed to support defining consent in Indiana’s laws.
Curtis went on the claim that fraud is confusing. She failed to acknowledge the simplicity with which judges explain fraud in theft cases exactly as I described above. The committee voted in favor of the narrow bill as written, without including an amendment Ms. White requested. Subsequently, the bill passed in the House of Representatives by a 90 to 4 vote.
HB 1176 also contains the blame-the-victim language created by the concept that a victim’s “words and conduct” convey consent. In fact, they only convey consent when consent, freely given, knowledgeable and informed agreement takes place, not when the offender uses force, fear or fraud to undermine the victim’s self determination.
I truly hope HB 1176 passes, because closing even one legal loophole is far better than doing nothing! But I urge all readers to use your voice to appeal to Indiana’s legislators for clarity on what sexual assault actually is! They need to stop the victim-blaming nonsense they are embedding in their statutes, and recognize their responsibility to “equal protection under the law:” If one act of fraud to induce sexual contact is a sexual assault, then all acts of fraud to induce sexual contact is a sexual assault. And influencing a victim’s decision making process through force, fear or fraud, should never be seen as consent in a court of law. I urge you to use your voice by writing to the legislators who are sponsoring HB 1176. You’ll see their contact information at the end of this post.
Without the definition for consent clearly codified into Indiana’s laws, there is no end to the loopholes that sexual predators can dive into in order to assault their victims.
Last but not least, Utah!
On June 5th, 2020, CAN joined forces with the WE-Will Organization to reach out to Utah State Representative Angela Romero about defining consent in Utah’s laws. On January 8th, 2021, she, along with Senator Todd Weiler introduced HB 0213, entitled “Consent Language Amendments.”
In Section 1. 76-5-406 (2)(g), the first suggested amendment expands the state’s acknowledgement of when consent does not take place from impersonation of “a spouse” to “someone else.”
Just like the Indiana bill, Utah’s bill is a big, but narrow win for sexual assault by fraud. But it’s a legislative loophole plugger, not a consent definition. It fails to deal with any other deception or method for undermining a victim’s right to #FGKIA,
If sexual assault is a crime, and we know it is, as a result of the 14th amendment, the public deserves protection from all sexual assaults, not simply a few selected ones. Only by recognizing that consent is freely given, knowledgeable and informed agreement, will the public be properly served by Utah’s penal code.
Making it simple
If someone threatens you in order to get you to give them your car, they’re committing grand larceny. If they threaten you to induce sexual contact, “You agreed, didn’t you?”
In New York, Bernie Madoff will spend the rest of his life in jail because he defrauded victims of their assets by false pretenses. He did so in a manner that a reasonable person would not suspect.
But if you show your victim a divorce decree, with a raised seal and judge’s signature, claiming that you’re divorced when you’re not, in order to sexually penetrate them, they have absolutely no recourse when they discover the decree is a forgery. This, by the way is an actual case in which the Honorable James J. Panchik, a divorce judge in Armstrong County Pennsylvania, whose signature was forged on the document, was notified and failed to do anything about it.
One more important thing…….
Do sexual predators actually read penal code? Probably not! At least, not ’til they’ve been caught! In fact I dare say, most of the public has never read it either.
Laws that drone on with legal-ease negatives about specific nonconsensual acts do not give the public the guidance and accountability that defining consent clearly, in simple terms, will create.
Can we make it simpler than “Consent is freely given, knowledgeable and informed agreement?” That’s what it is! A six year old child can learn and understand it.
They don’t have consent if they lie that they finished their homework in order to have a cookie.
They don’t have consent if the kid next to them on the school bus dropped their lunch money. They are responsible to return it.
They don’t have consent if they bully a younger child to give up the swing when they want it.
Sen. Todd Weiler- firstname.lastname@example.org – 801-599-9823
Here’s a simple message for you to cut/paste and fill-in the blanks:
Thank you for your efforts to create Bill _______.
While I support all legislative changes to combat sexual assault, I see that this bill fails to accurately define consent, and this failure perpetuates rape and sexual assault.
Please include this wording in your bill:
“Non-consented-to sexual contact is a sexual assault, and a violation of the victim’s human rights. Only “freely given, knowledgeable and informed agreement” is consent in the state of _____.
Your name, address, and phone number
One more thing…..
CAN simply CAN’t do everything that’s needed without your help! No matter how large or small your contribution is, it’s welcome and will be put to good use to fight for CONSENT laws across the US and around the world!
Watching the latest Cosby show, his appeal hearing in front of Pennsylvania’s highest court, you’d think that rape was a legal-ease, hair splitting triviality, rather than a defiling, premeditated, vicious cruelty.
On December first, the attorneys for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and for Bill Cosby’s defense, presented their positions to Pennsylvania’s seven Supreme Court Justices; Thomas G. Saylor, Debra Todd, Max Baer, Kevin M. Dougherty, Christine Donohue, David N. Wecht, and Sallie Updyke Mundy, to decide Cosby’s fate. He is appealing his Aggravated Indecent Assault conviction which was previously upheld by a lower appeals court
First Basis for Appeal-
Cosby’s defense attorney, Jennifer Bonjean, argued that Cosby had been granted immunity from prosecution in exchange for not exercising his right to plead “the fifth” in the civil case brought by Andrea Constand, a victim he lured to his home under the guise of “mentorship,” in order to drug and sexually assault her. In his civil case deposition, Cosby testified that he slipped Constand Benadryl, that he had several prescriptions for Quaaludes that he intended for sex targets, and was unaware if Constand had consented.
No evidence or document exists to support that such an immunity agreement actually existed. In fact, the only written document regarding immunity was an article published back then in the National Enquirer.
Contrary to Cosby’s assertion that District Attorney Bruce Castor gave him full immunity from prosecution, the actual 2005 article quotes Castor as having said that the commonwealth “retains the right to reopen the case if the need arises.” The Commonwealth’s attorney, Robert Fallin, reminded the seven Supreme Court justices that such language was customary in all immunity agreements.
During the civil action, Cosby was questioned, and did not plead the fifth, regarding additional bad acts he conducted in other jurisdictions, where Castor had absolutely no control. The fact that Cosby only spoke under the belief that he would not be prosecuted, when in fact he spoke candidly about events in locations without a promise of immunity, additionally belies the defense’s argument. Time will tell whether the present justices will acknowledge the weight of these facts. Their decision could take several weeks.
Second Basis for Appeal-
Bonjean claimed the prosecution’s introduction of five witnesses to establish Cosby’s consistent nonconsensual sexual conduct unfairly tainted his character in the eyes of the jury. The judges questioned whether their testimony elicited a conviction based on a character assault, rather than the commission of a crime…. thereby rendering the trial “unfair.”
The Judges React-
What followed was word salad from the justices, splitting hairs over how similar the additional cases were and whether they contained probative value rather than a smear campaign. Justice Christine Donohue said. “I just don’t see it.” and Justice Max Baer remarked, “I tend to agree that the evidence was extremely prejudicial.”
Assistant District Attorney Adrienne Jappe, for the prosecution, argued that because “consent” was in question, prior claims that assaults without consent had taken place were needed to prove Cosby’s pattern of sequestering young women and stripping them of their defenses by administering drugs.
Giving Cosby a pass because he committed multiple bad acts only serves to enlighten society that conducting serial crimes can cause dismissal, while an individual crime would not. The additional irony is how rarely offenders who commit individual sexual assaults are brought to justice.
Pennsylvania’s law says…..
Under 225 Pa. Code § 404, (b) (2) prior bad-act witnesses can be used to prove motive, opportunity, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, absence of mistake, or lack of accident.
The justices questioned the validity of arguing the “absence of mistake,” and seemed to be siding with the defense by asking “Where do we draw the line? How many witnesses would be too much?”
Ms. Jappe aptly responded with case histories in which testimony by multiple “prior bad-act” witnesses was admitted. The justices seemed to overlook that the additional witnesses proved Cosby’s planning, preparation, and knowledge of the crime.
Neither the trial judge, Steven O’Neill, nor the prosecutor can change the fact that the accused is a repetitive monster. Should we dismiss findings because the person is simply too vile to prosecute? That prospect is simply gag-worthy!
How bad is bad?
The prosecutor had located nineteen witnesses who had agreed to testify. Judge O’Neill told them to pick five of the eight he’d selected. The Supreme Court justices should not be micro-managing Judge O’Neill’s decision on how to balance the probative value of testimony vs. the potential for unfair prejudice, particularly because Pennsylvania’s laws make no distinction regarding the amount of such witnesses that are allowable, therefore leaving that choice to the trial judge’s discretion.
Bonjean claimed that the added testimony took up 50% of the court’s time. Jappe countered that their testimony took two days out of a ten day trial.
Convicting Cosby would have been a slam dunk if CONSENT were defined by law in PA!
Since, in the civil case, Cosby had admitted, under oath, he did not know if Constand had consented, on that basis alone, his sexual conduct would have been charged as unlawful. Instead, his case is mired in legalistic wrangling that thwarts commonsense and justice.
Bill Cosby deserves incarceration. If these justices fail to dispense justice where it’s sorely needed, they send a blatant message to society that Pennsylvania’s laws will only prosecute predators who are caught red-handed as they bludgeon their victims within an inch of their lives.
Trying cases when victims are drugged, drunk, or otherwise unconscious are particularly difficult to prosecute because the victim is unable to explain what happened to them while their brains failed to process pertinent data. Providing additional testimony to establish a pattern of behavior is an important prosecution practice to take monsters like Cosby off the street. Failing to recognize the importance of additional witnesses in these cases would be a grotesque miscarriage of justice.
The important facts each justice should recognize are the following:
There is no limit to how many bad-act witnesses a judge may allow to help prove motive, opportunity, preparation, planning, and knowledge.
It is inconceivable that a communication as important as a promise of immunity was not codified in writing, filed with the court, and cannot be produced by the defendant or the defendant’s lawyers.
A claim that a District Attorney would relinquish the commonwealth’s right to pursue the case, if additional evidence warranted their doing so, flies in the face of the norm in Pennsylvania, and is contrary to the only documentation, the National Enquirer article, that was written at the time- based on the press release issued by Cantor.
What can you do to help?
Unfortunately, judicial rules of ethics prohibit justices from case discussions with the public. Any correspondence from you would be discarded. While we can’t reach out to the justices who hold Cosby, and therefore his victims’ fates in their hands, we can make every effort to insure that Pennsylvania’s, or any state’s, victim-blaming, inappropriate laws are never repeated.
CAN has worked with legislators in Pennsylvania to codify consent in its penal code. This specific, glaring omission in Pennsylvania’s laws gives rise to the public’s gross misconceptions of what actually constitutes a sexual assault, and thrusts the possibility of conviction into the quicksand of legal-ease and archaic thought.
Write to the Pennsylvania legislators to support our efforts to #CodifyConsent in Pennsylvania’s laws so that we will never see legal wrangling again over the conviction of a serial rapist, or denial of justice to sexual assault victims.
Send your note!
Please send a note of appreciation to:
Senator Katie Muth at email@example.com
Representative Wendi Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Be sure to thank them for their support in creating the sorely needed transformational change that accurately defining consent as “Freely Given, Knowledgeable and Informed Agreement, #FGKIA,” will create in Pennsylvania’s laws and echo across the US and around the world!