Our opinion: Change needed sooner than later

Published 6:30 am Saturday, April 10, 2021

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A bipartisan group of Minnesota lawmakers are pressing for swift passage of legislation that updates the state’s criminal conduct code regarding sexual assault that is horribly out of date.

The legislation comes after a recent court case in which the conviction of a man who assaulted an intoxicated woman was thrown out by the Minnesota Supreme Court because it did not meet the legal definition of someone who is involuntarily intoxicated.

While the Supreme Court interpreted the law correctly as it stands, it nevertheless highlights just how backward it is.

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Following the decision, there was public outcry and since then legislators have moved swiftly and in a bipartisan manner.

Sexual assault is still sexual assault and somebody who has been through this kind of trauma is still going to be dealing with the mental and physical scars of an attack, regardless of the situation.

“Survivors who choose to engage with the criminal justice system deserve a system that does not perpetuate additional harm,” said Lindsay Brice, law and policy director at the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault, during a news conference last week. “While that legal opinion was probably a surprise to much of the public, it highlighted an issue that survivors and advocates have been working on for years.”

As reported in an Associated Press article, the legislation would include voluntary intoxication as well as making it a crime to coerce a victim into a sexual act to avoid a consequence like loss of housing or employment.

This type of legislation should be a no-brainer and there is a high degree of optimism that it will pass into the law.

We voice support; the sooner the better. While we can’t change the past, even though this loophole should have been closed far before now, this legislation can affect the present and the future.

It’s time to act in order to protect anymore from suffering the harm and indignity of sexual assault.