How 'Consent' Complicates Sexual Assault Prosecution In Montana

May 24, 2016

Prosecutors and victims advocates today agreed that Montana needs to change its legal definition of rape. They spoke at a task force meeting on sexual assault called by the Montana Attorney General’s office at Carroll College.

Assistant Attorney General Ole Olson says the problem is how "consent" is defined when people face a charge of "sexual intercourse without consent."

"If a woman says, ‘no I don’t want to have sex,’ and a man proceeds; unless he uses force, that is not rape. And I think most people would consider that rape; if a woman says no I don’t want to have sex, and a man proceeds to have sex with her despite her protest, I think most people would say, yeah that is rape. But under our law it is not."

An interim legislative committee is reviewing the state’s current definition of sexual intercourse without consent, for possible change in the 2017 legislative session.

Robin Turner with the Montana Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence agrees that a new definition of rape is needed to keep up with the research into how victims respond to assault.

"This interim committee has received a lot of information on both how trauma impacts people, and how that has changed the way law enforcement in other states and how other states have looked at the definition of consent. So this bill, this bill language, is something the committee is considering and a lot of the information that they have received over the past year has become a part of that."

The legislative interim committee reviewing the state’s definition of rape will meet again in the last week of June. The meeting of the Attorney General’s task force on sexual assault continues on Wednesday.