Sexual assault on campus has been a hot topic in Texas for the past couple of years. From the scandal at Baylor to the high school hazing scandal and false reports of college rape, like the one at Stephen F. Austin,sexual assault cases have regularly made the news, permeating the internet and your living room television.
What new laws are on the horizon for Sexual Assault?
Right now, the minimum punishment for sexual assault is five years in prison with a maximum of life in prison. But some think that that’s not enough.
For example, State Senator Kirk Watson filed five campus rape bills in order to make anti-rape laws more strict. This move was not without its detractors.
The law would require people with knowledge about sexual misconduct of any kind to report it within 48 hours, regardless of whether or not that person was a victim, or what the victim’s wishes are. These anti-rape laws would also require the person reporting to give the victim’s name and address. This is regardless of whether or not the victim wishes to remain anonymous.
The fact that people should be forced to respond to sexual assault in a certain way is not something that sits well with a lot of people.
Also, the lack of regard for the victim’s wishes strikes many — including people pushing for stricter laws — as a rather uncomfortable idea.
That said, there is some support for the other components of Watson’s plan. For example, his law would make sure that people reporting sexual assault would not be charged for a lesser crime, such as underage drinking. The proposal would also force schools to set up a way for victims to report crimes anonymously.
What this means
All of the media attention has necessitated a response from elected officials. The ideas that they have proposed are focused more on placating voters than advancing a well-researched policy. Complicating matters is that politics of the sexual assault issue are tricky.
Sexual assault is the easiest offense in Texas to be arrested for, and it is virtually impossible to prove your innocence. On the other hand, victims of sexual assault sometimes feel uncomfortable making reports and seeking prosecution. These issues are exacerbated on campuses across the country.
The problem isn’t just confined to Texas, of course. These issues are being faced across the nation, and no one has yet to find a perfect answer to these thorny problems. One thing that everyone can agree on, however, is that our justice system in Texas is not set up to give people accused a fair trial. The state has an easy time convicting people who get arrested. The presumption of innocence has been all but lost.
It is almost impossible to guarantee that you will never be arrested for rape, no matter what you do to obtain consent, but it is very important that you assert your legal rights.
No one knows what will happen to the new proposal in the legislature, but lawyers and students alike will have to keep a close eye on these anti-rape laws.
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