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.
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.
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.
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- email@example.com – 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Representative Wendi Thomas at email@example.com.
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!
As Domestic Violence Awareness Month (#DVAM) winds down, we are nowhere nearer to the solution.
In fact, just this month in Indiana, legislators passed on an opportunity to make a difference! Their Legislative Interim Study on Consent, headed by State Representative Wendy McNamara, closed down without any stated effort to bring about change despite objections from legislators on both sides of the aisle.
Consent is critical in any conduct in which one person touches another. And when the person touches the reproductive organs of another, or performs any physical contact to engage the other person sexually, they must have CONSENT. Commonsense is pretty clear that this is so.
The problem is, no state speaks definitively about what consent actually is……. leaving the police, judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and the public with no guidance, and only a few restricted ways to hold sexual predators accountable.
Several important codes that regulate the public’s understanding of consent, Model Penal Code, Nuremberg Code and General Data Protection Regulation, all tell us the same thing….. Consent is freely given, knowledgeable and informed agreement, #FGKIA.
COVID 19 has forced domestic violence victims to isolate with predators who prey on them, This reality has caused legislators to take emergency measures to support services that provide sanctuary to victims. But still, they overlook the fundamental cure to preventing domestic violence from happening in the first place,….. the clear and simple recognition of “consent” that will hold offenders accountable!
Defining consent makes police action mandatory in sexual abuse cases because an obvious, blatant crime is taking place. An officer who fails to take action is aiding and abetting in the commission of a crime.
Until we #CodifyConsent in our laws, abusers, attackers, predators, and rapists have the upper hand, while victims are left at their mercy and denied their 14th amendment right to equal protection under the law.
Contact your legislators! Your vote is your voice! Only vote for candidates who pledge to #CodifyConsent in our laws!
Want to help conquer sexual assault and domestic violence?
On October 6th, the Legislative Interim Study Committee on Consent in Indiana, comprised of 14 Indiana legislators, and led by Representative Wendy McNamara, proved that legislators give lip-service to the problem of sexual assault, but fail to produce meaningful solutions.
In spite of protests by three legislators from both sides of the aisle, McNamara insisted on filing her committee’s report with NO support for a consent bill. She even refused to include any mention that the committee would continue to research and work toward a solution.
According to The Statehouse File.com from Franklin College, McNamara said: “I don’t think we necessarily gleaned from testimony that we need a definition as a state. I’m not prepared at this time to say we in essence recommend that we have to have a definition.”
Apparently, we need to ask Representative McNamara- “How does an obscure concept of CONSENT possibly convey an understanding of rape to the residents of Indiana? And how do you expect sexual predators to be held accountable when you, as a law maker who your constituents have entrusted with protecting them, knowingly fail to define consent in Indiana’s laws?”
In the upcoming election, voters should be deeply concerned with supporting candidates who fail to pledge to #CodifyConsent. The people of Indiana will know how their candidates stand on this issue because CAN will be tweeting every candidate over the next few weeks. And you, no matter what state or jurisdiction you live in, should do the same….. #WillYouCodifyConsent?
The Consent Awareness Network placed the need for a consent definition in Indiana right in front of the committee members’ noses.
In fact, the launch of the committee’s efforts began with a video we submitted, featuring Weinstein Survivors, Mimi Haley and Tarale Wulff, like this one. Their testimony included the fact that the jury asked for the definition for consent, and that because New York state also fails to define consent in its penal code, the judge simply replied, “Use your commonsense.”
Does McNamara actually believe that each jury should make up their own definition for consent, or should they decide the case based on the evidence presented at trial? How does making up their own definition serve society’s right for the equal protection under the law granted by the 14th Amendment of the United States?
Here’s why legislators turn a blind eye to defining consent in our laws:
Centuries of horrifically ignoring sexual sanctity are so engrained in our penal codes that legislators are tone deaf on changing the laws.
Our laws recognize that consent is freely given, knowledgeable and informed agreement #FGKIA when protecting your property, your medical decisions, your identity on the internet, and countless other things. But the need for applying that same concept to protecting a woman’s body is treated as absurd and unimportant.
Our forefathers, many of whom had horrific records of indecent sexual conduct, fashioned laws with no regard for women, and still do so even though sexual assault can affect men as well. But there are far more voting males who are covert sexual predators, then the amount of voting male victims of sexual assault. To legislators, votes matter!
It’s baffling how law makers rely on the opinions of the legal establishment to determine what harms their constituents suffer.
Behaviors are and should be crimes because of the harm they inflict on society; not the ease or difficulty to prosecute in a court of law. Law makers put more stock in what the legal establishment says about prosecution than what their constituents actually need for protection.
The Consent Awareness Network has engaged in efforts to secure appropriate “Consent” language in penal codes in several states including MA, PA, AK, UT, NY, IN, TX, SC, and more. Each legislator we spoke with is clear that consent is freely given, knowledgeable and informed agreement, #FGKIA, but in each and every state, the legislative reliance on the legal establishment is creating an impasse to securing appropriate protections for society.
Lawmakers did not have to ask permission from the legal establishment to determine what constitutes murder. We all know that the pre-meditated killing of another human being is a crime. The US Department of Justice Statistics tells us that only one third of violent crimes actually lead to an arrest. Despite the difficulty pursuing murderers, we still recognize what murder actually is. Despite the difficulty pursuing sexual predators, our laws must correctly state that consent is freely given, knowledgeable and informed agreement, and that nonconsensual sex is a crime!
Call your legislator. Demand that they #CodifyConsent in your state. If you’d like CAN’s help securing correctly defined “consent” in your penal code, contact us at info@ConsentAwareness.net.
Once our lawmakers get CONSENT right, the legal establishment will have to prosecute or defend sexual assault cases according to the law. Reliance on the legal establishment to create the law is like the tail wagging the dog! In this case, it’s a very complacent, cavalier dog that thinks society won’t recognize how complicit they are in enabling rape.
Stop the ignorant nonsense. Demand that legislators #CodifyConsent today!
Defining CONSENT in our laws is the critical key to conquering sexual assault, and the legislators of Indiana are examining the definition for this pivotal word for Indiana’s penal code….. RIGHT NOW!
Defining consent in one state, opens the doors to defining consent in every state and jurisdiction across the US and around the world, no matter where the process starts!
The late Ruth Bader Ginsburgs’s words never rang truer than today: “Nothing changes without changing our laws!” You can be part of this monumental, transformational change!
Like every other state throughout the US, Indiana currently fails to define “consent” in its penal code.
Indiana’s legislature has empanelled a legislative study committee to research and file their report on October 6th. Your letters and phone calls to members of the study committee can help this vital effort succeed.
You will find the email addresses and phone numbers below for each member, as well as a model letter to use as-is or modify to your liking.
Viewed by each legislator:
CAN’s video, “Defining Consent in Indiana,” which contains comments from Weinstein Survivors Mimi Haley and Tarale Wulff, launched Indiana’s interim study on September 15th.
The correct definition for “consent” that CAN has introduced is endorsed and supported by Model Penal Code, Nuremberg Code, and General Data Protection Regulation:
Consent is Freely Given, Knowledgeable and Informed Agreement. #FGKIA.
Failing to include the actual, and appropriate definition for consent in penal codes enables rape mentality and puts every man, woman and child at risk for sexual assault and rape. In the Weinstein and Cosby cases, each jury asked for the definition. Each judge answered- “Use your commonsense.” This same discussion takes place in practically every rape trial.
All victims are entitled to equal justice under our laws. Only when we #CodifyConsent can we establish a consistent definition for judges to convey to each jury in order to hold sexual predators accountable and secure equal justice for all. Defining “consent” makes unlawful sexual conduct crystal clear to each and every member of society.
Please use the list that follows to write and/or call today, and bcc Info@ConsentAwareness.net so that we can track the volume of responses on this important issue.
If you would like for CAN to help you begin the process of defining consent in your jurisdiction, write to us at info@ConsentAwareness.net.
Dear Senator _____ or Representative ______:
Thank you for your efforts, as a member of Indiana’s Legislative Interim Study on Consent, to #CodifyConsent in Indiana’s penal code.
Defining consent as the freely given, knowledgeable and informed agreement that it is, will not only protect generations of men, women, and children, but will also serve as a blueprint for appropriate sexual assault laws in additional states and jurisdictions.
No matter how the offender conducts a sexual assault, the victim has a right to equal justice under the law. Only by providing a consistent and correct definition for consent can justice be meted out with an equal hand and can society clearly understand what constitutes a sexual assault.
I look forward to your support for a bill, recommended by your committee, to define consent in the penal code of Indiana.
List of Legislative Study Committee Members and Their Contact Information
On September 15th, Indiana Representative Wendy McNamara headed a legislative study on CONSENT. One of the presenters, Samantha McCoy from RISE spoke about a case in which the victim was denied justice because she waited a year to take action. The officer told her “The most important piece to reporting is the timeline.”
The reporting timeline affects cases even when the victim reports within the statute of limitations.
Denial of justice is common
In the Harvey Weinstein case, his defense introduced testimony from an expert witness on how memory degrades over time. She ignored the fact that in rape, or other traumatic contact, memories are indelibly seared into the mind. This phenomenon explains why Dr. Christine Blasey Ford could recall details of Brett Kavanaugh’s attack but he, himself, remembered nothing. In a drunken stupor, his behavior, which contained no trauma to him, failed to register in his memory.
After suffering the defiling trauma of rape, many victims simply want to avoid all thought about the incident to restore “normal.” It takes hard work and effort to come to terms with what happened. Overcoming the onslaught to one’s self esteem, destruction of trust, and all the physical and emotional wounds that were inflicted, takes an effort of huge magnitude.
Often, when victims feel ready to pursue justice, our system of justice denies access because the aggrieved is considered to have degraded memory. Here’s the solution…..
Write it down and send a LETTER to SELF!
No matter whether you feel ready or willing to step forward, those feelings can change over time. Preserve your right to be taken seriously by emailing, to yourself, a detailed account of the events. The closer to the date of the actual incident you do so, the greater the acknowledgement you will gain down the road from those in authority. Be sure you hang onto this email by filing it permanently in your system.
Trauma scatters your memory. The neuropeptides and hormones that protect your psyche and your body can veil factual awareness from entering your brain in a linear way. One of the reasons the reports of rape victims are treated as “suspect” is because their concepts fail to initially take a linear track. If, however, you write down your account, for your own eyes, you will go through the linear thought process that enables you to assemble the jumbled pieces.
Whether you ultimately decide to go forward with reporting or not, the ability to package your trauma into a document you can file and to revisit as you desire, will help you stop struggling with the memories. It allows you to literally put those memories on the shelf and move past them.
Join us when we discuss the laws on CONSENT with Weinstein survivors, Jessica Mann and Mimi Haley, Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright, and President of the NY State Trial Lawyers Association, Michele Mirman on Thursday, July 16th, at 7 PM EDT.
Just in time for Sexual Violence Prevention Month!
I had the recent pleasure of interviewing with Tracy Malone, the creator of Narcissist Abuse Support which provides meaningful information on recovery, as well as support, for hundreds of abuse sufferers.
Our discussion ran the gamut between the actual definition for “consent” to the concrete steps people can take to make the world a safer place.
Today’s post is written by Nicole Perry, CAN’s latest Consent Outreach Ambassador. Nicole is based in South Florida and her unique, professional background in the dance world ties right in with our mission to clearly define consent for society and in penal codes across the US and around the world!
Nicole is an intimacy director/choreographer, dance choreographer, and movement director. She is also a director, actor, dancer, and the founder of Momentum Stage, a non-profit organization providing resources for performing artists. Her credits are listed below her post.
Here’s what she has to say…….
I believe this time of physical distancing is going to make us more aware of contact and proximity when we are able to reenter the “real world.” Because of that, being able to ask for, as well as affirm or deny consent, is going to be a really applicable skill, in a different way than before.
In the world of performing arts, where I work, consent has only recently become a topic of consideration. I am an Intimacy Director/Choreographer. I create the movement for intimate moments on stage, many of which require physical contact.
The term used for my job was created in 2004 by Tonia Sina, the founder of Intimacy Directors International. My role centers around consent. The theatre, film, and opera worlds have been adding this role to their creative teams since about 2017. Even though the #MeToo Movement thrust the need for consent into the spotlight, the concert dance world is still behind. But, as last year’s scandal at the New York City Ballet shows us, it really needs to catch up.
Agreeing under pressure
Being a performer conditions us to say “yes”, even if we don’t really mean it. The myth of the Hard to Work with Actor, conveys that when the performer does not say “yes” to everything asked of them, they’ll be labelled “hard to work with,” “difficult,” or “a diva,” and will find it very challenging to get work in the future. “Yes, and…” is encouraged as the only response when conducting improv work.
In dance, a teacher models the combination, and students work to look as much like the teacher as possible. Dance pedagogy, while being very teacher-centric and allowing only one voice of power in the room, is also very touch-centric. It allows the person in power to have “at will” access to the bodies of those not in power. This creates quite the paradox:
While dancers are working to have complete control over their bodies, they are also expected to immediately surrender that control to the teacher or choreographer.
The power-differential effect
Beyond a dancer’s conditioning to say “yes”, we are also conditioned to see and respect power. The performing arts are incredibly hierarchical. The director is in charge of the actors, but answers to an artistic director and/or producers. Among the actors there are leads as well as supporting, and ensemble company members. In dance, the choreographer is in charge of the piece, but the artistic director is in charge of the company.
There are the corps or company members, but there are also soloists who rank higher up the ladder because of their opportunities, physical capabilities, and often – their paychecks. These power dynamics are part of a performer’s culture from the very first show they are in; which for many is at a very young age. All of this reinforces “yes” as the only option.
In my work, as an Intimacy Director/Choreographer, I tell everyone that the work is based on CONSENT, and “consent” is truly only “consent” if “no” is a valid answer. I assure the directors that I can make a story work and fit their artistic vision, while still respecting a performer’s boundaries. I try to ask open-ended questions to my performers, with no implied “yes,” such as, “Does it work for you if so-and-so puts her hand in such-and-such place?” or, “How do you feel about so-and-so placing her hand in such-and-such place?” in order to encourage them to answer honestly.
We are very pleased to be partnering with CAN to promote Consent Culture in the Performing Arts.
For many people- Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) begins today. But for those who have been sexually assaulted, #SAAM is an everyday occurrence. While we all find ways to put the past behind us, and make the most of our lives, the defilement of rape is character changing. It lives within us forever.
Many of us will soon be thanking God for our ability to check into a hospital. We’ll be counting on the help of courageous, medical front-liners, who put themselves at risk to heal us from COVID-19.
As we approach the reception desk for intake, we won’t give a second thought to signing the CONSENT form that hospitals require. We’ll happily jot down our signature and scribble our initials where required. Some of us won’t even bother reading the form. Even less will contemplate the horrific travesty and social injustice Continue reading What can COVID-19 teach us about CONSENT?→
Friday- 3/20- According to the Associated Press- Toledo plastic surgeon, Manish Gupta, who also practiced in Michigan, was indicted for sex trafficking 20 female victims by force, fraud or coercion, and one count of illegally distributing a controlled substance. His case made front page news with the News-Herald, the Detroit Free Press, and the Sentinel Tribune. And 24News WNWO covered the story.
I was happy to be a part of history this morning, if only to “stand and wait” at the sentencing for Harvey Weinstein. Even the few “public seats” were given to the press. Only a handful of onlookers without press passes were allowed into the crowded courtroom.
The first person who the police cut off had been waiting since 6:10 AM for proceedings that were scheduled to start at 9:30. I’d arrived around 7:20 and was the 9th person on the waiting line. But as the group stood hopefully, even Continue reading Today- Harvey’s Words Revealed It ALL!→
Yesterday, through the efforts of Wagner College Professor Patricia Moynagh, I had the honor of speaking to a group of intelligent, enthusiastic, Wagner students and faculty. Aided by my Swiss cheese umbrella, I explained the failure of a justice system fraught with legal loopholes, and why society needs our legislators to #CodifyConsent.
Their questions ran the gamut from “How does drunkenness impact fault?” to “Does tacit consent count: can consent be inferred without it being vocalized?”
Wagner is an educational gem perched at the highest geographic level of NY City. Its lofty location delivers an uplifting view of New York Harbor, the magnificent skyline of Manhattan, and the Statue of Liberty.
Lady Liberty provides a noble reminder of the freedoms we all deserve here in the US, including freedom from harm and justice for all. What a magnificent backdrop from which to launch a transformational change to protect every student’s sexual sanctity and provide justice for survivors!
Here’s how you can make a difference…..
If you are a student, faculty member, part of administration, or have another educational affiliation at any school, contact me to start a CAN chapter. Your mission could include fighting for appropriate sexual assault laws, appropriate regulations for your school’s Code of Conduct, and building a base of advocates to assist sexual assault victims so they do not have to navigate the system on their own. Contact Info@ConsentAwareness.net to advocate on your campus or volunteer in other ways.