• Des Moines lawmaker seeks to clarify rape in the third degree

    By: Amy Clancy

    Updated:

    DES MOINES, Wash. - In Washington state, a person is guilty of Rape in the Third Degree when "the victim did not consent…to sexual intercourse with the perpetrator and such lack of consent was clearly expressed by the victim's words or conduct." 

    Rep. Tina Orwall, a Democrat from the 33rd District in Des Moines, believes the current law puts victims in an unfair position when trying to prove sexual assault in court.

    “They might be asked, ‘Did you fight back?’ ‘Did you scratch?’ ‘Did you yell?’” Orwall said while explaining her concerns to KIRO 7 on Wednesday. “Their body might not be capable of that response because of the trauma they’re experiencing.”

    “It’s difficult in the courtroom if all the focus is on the behavior of the victim versus the perpetrator,” Orwall said.

    When the new legislative session begins, Orwall will propose a package of sexual assault-related legislation that includes House Bill 1002. The bill would strike the requirement for the "lack of consent" to be "clearly expressed by the victim's words or conduct."

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    “There are also cases in which victims are drugged, and so this is a tool for prosecutors,” Orwall said. She hopes the change will lead to more victims reporting their crimes and more suspects being convicted, she said.

    Mary Ellen Stone, executive director of the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center, supports Orwall's proposals.

    Stone, who has counseled sexual assault survivors for decades, told KIRO 7 “there is this tendency for some victims, some people, to freeze in a situation and they literally can’t move. They can’t communicate.”

    “We want to make sure that victims get as many opportunities as they can to bring their cases forward,” Stone said.

    Orwall's legislation is also supported by the Seattle Police Department, the King County Sheriff's Office and the King County prosecutor, but will still have to be approved by lawmakers in Olympia.

    Click here to read the original bill and to get updates on its progress.

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