While the pilgrims suffered countless obstacles to navigate uncharted waters, their descendants surely failed to rise above the sea of legal rhetoric on rape by fraud back in 2008. It was a tragically lost opportunity.
In Suliveres v. Commonwealth, 449 Mass. 112 (2007), the court deemed the defendant not guilty in a case in which he disguised himself as his brother to have sex with the brother’s girlfriend. Another MA case of rape by fraud was similarly dismissed when a lab technician passed himself off as a doctor.
Then Representative, Peter J. Koutoujian, currently the Sheriff of Middlesex County, proposed a law to make rape by fraud a crime. The law was considered “too broad,” and was voted down. The principle behind what defines “too broad” is that the law could be carried out if a man poses as single when, in fact, he’s married.
The following is a quote from CBS News at the time:
Rape by deception is just as damaging and illegal as rape by force, said Middlesex County District Attorney Gerry Leone. If the law passes here, a common concern is that the legislation’s vague language regarding deception will result in women who have been seduced by men posing as someone else or claiming to be unmarried filing rape charges.
So let’s examine the concept by which the law was rejected….
Joe Hitched, (sorry guys but this occurs far more frequently with men fooling women than women fooling men,) is on his own for a week. His wife is out of town to care for her father who just had heart surgery. Joe’s feeling bored and decides to go hang out at the neighborhood watering hole, the one with the loud music, pool table, and pretty women.
As Joe approaches the door, he takes off his wedding band, surveying his hand to see if he can detect a faint line where the ring normally sits. Content that his deception won’t be noticed, he finds a seat at the crowded bar and orders a beer.
Susie Single, fresh from a recent breakup with her boyfriend, is standing next to him. He offers to buy her a drink and they begin a chatting, friendly banter. He challenges her to a game of pool and before you know it, they’re kicking it up on the dance floor. When the beat turns to a slow simmer, he puts an arm around her waist and they sway seductively to the music.
Susie’s impressed with his good looks. She’s an intelligent woman, a nurse. He’s well spoken, seems like an educated guy, and he has a fun loving disposition. She’s not one to succumb to the flirting of the moment, but she gives him her number. When she gets home, she “Googles” him. He works where he said he did. Nothing negative appears on the internet.
Joe calls the very next day. “What a catch,” Susie thinks, “someone who’s not a game player!” She accepts his invitation for dinner. He makes a reservation for a romantic dinner cruise, and he tells her all about his divorce and the two kids he’s estranged from, since his terrible ex is giving him a hard time.
Susie’s heart melts. She feels an instant chemistry with Joe. He seems like the perfect guy… interested in his children, easy to talk to, hard-working. When he walks her to the door, and kisses her good-night, she’s caught up in the passion and invites him in. They have totally consensual, so she thinks, sex, that night, the next, and the next.
When his wife returns, Joe covers up his marriage by saying he needs to travel for business. Susie understands that his job takes him away, until she runs into him shopping with his wife at the local mall.
So, was their sex consensual? She agreed to it, right? Or was she defrauded into it?
Susie was raised by her mother after her father made off with his secretary. She was adamant that she would never do to a family what her father had done to hers. Had she known Joe was married, she would not have gotten involved with him. Joe not only broke his marriage vows, he embroiled Susie in adultery and sexually assaulted her by fraud.
Why do our laws insist in protecting offenders who do this to women all the time? Why would a state deliberately turn its back on protecting a woman against assault by someone pretending to be her boyfriend or her doctor, in order to give Joe Hitched carte blanche to defile Susie Single? Is it because so many people do this that our Legislators are concerned they won’t get re-elected if they stand for the right thing?
Divorce is rampart in our country. Often, marriages crumble because it’s so easy to step out and hook up in another relationship. While people will argue that our courts will be inundated with charges against offenders, I’d argue that the volume of divorce is likely to diminish when offenders realize there are real and meaningful consequences to this behavior.
And the very simple response to the concept that our courts will be overrun with rape by fraud claims is: people should stop taking off their rings to defraud others of sex. But even if they don’t, cases of “he said, she said,” are unlikely to meet the burden of proof required for prosecution. Prosecuting a “rape by fraud” case would take “proofs” that will hold up in a courtroom, not the unsupported lies that are common in hook-ups. For that reason, even though Joe committed what we can see, generically, as “rape by fraud,” will he be prosecuted? Probably no.
If we’d like to live in a moral society, our laws must conform with morality. Sexually assaulting someone by fraud is both morally reprehensible and a crime. Just because Joe Hitched won’t be charged, does not make it less so.
Sadly, the Sheriff’s efforts, from the town where I was born, failed to acknowledge that duplicity invalidates consent in all things, including sex. I take this one personally.