What better way to start 2017 than with a win for sexual assault survivors?
Rebecca is a university student who, as students often do, spent an evening at parties with friends before returning to her dorm room. That's where, later that night, a classmate had sex with her – according to her, without her consent.
Shaken and afraid after the incident, she reported it to the police and went to the hospital for a sexual assault exam. But later, when she asked the King County Superior Court for a protection order, she was denied.
The court reasoned that "the only testimony" about consent was from the defendant - completely ignoring ample evidence that Rebecca lacked the capacity to consent because she was intoxicated. Further, the judge chastised her for drinking, stating, "Alcohol's not good, especially when you're a good-looking lady running around on campus."
We couldn't let that stand—not for Rebecca, and not for the countless other survivors who are blamed for their assaults. So we filed a brief arguing that Rebecca's intoxication left her unable to consent to sex and encouraging the Court of Appeals to reverse the decision.
And it did! The Court reversed the trial court, stating that "mental incapacity [...] caused by alcohol or drugs may make the sexual contact nonconsensual." We are pleased that Rebecca's pursuit of safety has led to this positive result and will stand by her as her case goes back to the trial court.
We will also continue our work in the Washington Legislature, which reconvenes next week, to strengthen the sexual assault protection order law to ensure that it does its job: protects the safety of people who have been raped.
Special thanks to cooperating counsel Kristina Bennard and Elizabeth Weinstein at Yarmuth Wilsdon PLLC, as well as our allies at Northwest Justice Project and King County Sexual Assault Resource Center, for their efforts on our amicus brief.
Brief of Amici Curiae Legal Voice, Northwest Justice Project, and King County Sexual Assault Resource Center