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Talking to Your Children About Rape Posted May 1, 2017

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As a parent of three, one girl and two boys, there are many conversations that we will have over the course of their lives that are extremely important to their well being and future development, but none more important than the conversation about SEX.  When I say conversation about sex most of you are probably thinking about the “birds and bees” talk that most of us have had with our parents in our formative years. Although the birds and bees talk is an important conversation it is only part of the conversation.  Learning how a baby is made and being comfortable with ones sexuality is great but often the piece of the conversation that is left out is a discussion about consent and rape.

            Rape is an ugly word that most people avoid using, much less talking about, with their children.  In fact I bet when you read the word Rape you most likely envisioned a scenario of a man jumping from behind a bush and pinning a woman down before forcing himself on her.  Most people think my child would never rape anyone so its a moot point and there is no reason  to discuss the issue.  It’s true, your child will almost assuredly not do something that fits the image of rape that you have in your head but that is not the only form of rape that the law recognizes.  There a many different forms of rape under the law and it is imperative that young adults realize that the issue of consent is not always cut and dry.

            Most people have heard the term statutory rape and probably envision an older man taking advantage of a young girl but that isn’t always the case.  In Oklahoma the legal age of consent is 16 years old, barring certain relationships such as student/teacher, Foster parent/ Foster child etc. which still make it illegal, someone under the age of 16 cannot consent to sex.  While we can all agree that 15 year olds do not need to have sex we can also agree that it is a fact of life that some 15 year olds will have sex.  Now think about a scenario where a senior is dating a sophomore, not that unusual of a situation, and there is a 3 plus year age difference between the two.  If the two individuals engage in sexual intercourse when the senior is 18 and the sophomore has not quite 16 it becomes rape.  That’s a pretty scary thought that a completely consensual encounter between two students that go to the same school can become rape simply because of an age gap.

            The other issue that we see in rape cases is the issue of consent. One party claims they had consent for the action and the other party says that there was no consent.  We all know that relationships and emotions are messy and often confusing and this can lead to miscommunication and misunderstandings.  This is why you need to have a conversation with your child about not only sexual intercourse but about consent and current rape laws.

            We all know that conversations with children about something as intimate as sexual relationships are uncomfortable but necessary; the same can be said about conversations concerning consent and rape.  The old no means no is a good start too the conversation but it is only a start, the conversation needs to be much more in depth than that.  A parent needs to talk to their child about the age of consent, which is 16 in Oklahoma, and make sure they know that if one party is under 16 and the other party is over 18, even if it is completely consensual, sex in that instance is rape. 

            Parents also need to talk with their children about the relationship between drinking, drug use and consent.  We would all prefer that our children did not drink or use drugs but the truth is that most kids are going to experiment with at least alcohol if not other substances during the course of their life.  Children need to know that the substances effect their decision making ability and a big decision like having sexual intercourse should only be made with a clear mind. As awkward as all this may be it is absolutely a necessary conversation to have with your child.

            Another common term that we hear thrown around is date rape.  Many people imagine a scenario where a boy is plying a girl with alcohol or drugs until she passes out and then takes advantage of her in her unconscious state.  While it is true that the previous scenario is rape it is not the only situation under which someone can be charged with rape in a date rape scenario. A rape allegation can also be born out of confusion over the level of consent that was given.  While one party might take “yes” as an invitation to have sexual intercourse, the other party may believe that their consent was limited to making out or “heavy petting” and anything beyond that was not consensual and therefore rape.  A recent example of this was when Amy Schumer, the famous comedian, came out and said that her first sexual experience when she was 17 was not consensual.  She went on to say that she had no desire to punish him and that there are just so many factors involved in the situation.  It is a scary thought that a misunderstanding as to consent, and how far that consent reaches, can be rape but it is the truth.  Consent is a simple concept in the abstract but can become very convoluted in reality. Obviously, and it goes without saying, that no means no; but very rarely,  in my experience as a criminal attorney, are things ever that cut and dry.  There are two human beings involved in every rape allegation and as human beings their accounts of the same event will vary because they are based on their perspective and draw on their individual life experiences and views of the world. This is not to say that a alleged victim of rape is lying but that their view of the situation may not be the same as the alleged perpetrators view. 

If you or a loved one has been charged with rape, or is being investigated due to a rape allegation, do  not talk to the police and request an attorney immediately if questioned or arrested.  Then call Mark Cagle and Stephen Lee who will vigorously defend any allegation of Rape.


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