Redefining Consent among Sex Crime Reform Bills

The consumption of alcohol, in a report cited by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is linked to more than half of the sexual assaults on college campuses.

The question of consent sometimes can hamper investigations into those alleged crimes. SB 584, filed by state Senator Kirk Watson, would amend how consent is defined. According to the bill consent cannot be claimed if the person you have sex with is intoxicated.

"Part of the effort that the members you have here with you, and the others, are attempting to do is create processes that are set up, so that individuals can make decisions themselves. And those processes will empower them to be in positions to make those decisions,” said Senator Watson ( D) Austin.

Monday at a gathering of advocates for victims of sex abuse Watson's efforts were endorsed.

"The laws that define our crimes make it difficult for prosecutors to obtain justice for sexual assault survivors,” said Megan Westmore with SafeAustin

Unlike in charging a drunk driver- SB 584 does not set a measurable point of intoxication. Despite that, Westmore believes the bill is worth debating.

"It’s important to be clear headed it’s important for that person to be in that right state of mind in order to provide consent,” said Westmore.

Along with the Consent Bill other proposals include;  

Reclassifying groping as indecent assault.

Additional funding for rape crisis centers.

Increasing standards for rape kit testing.

Training police to communicate better with victims.

At the news conference, a group of college students also called on universities to review how campus sex crimes are investigated.

"The system has checked all the boxes and has all the resources in place, but is failing to deliver them effectively,” said UT Sophomore Ashka Dighe who is also with the group “It’s On Us.”

The gathering comes after the Catholic Church released a list of Texas clergy members with credible accusations of abuse against them. The list dates back to the 50's. There is nothing in the package of bills that would hold a person of authority accountable for failing to report a complaint against an employee accused of sexual misconduct.

Similar legislation was passed in a previous session that creates repercussions for superintendents and principles who fail to report inappropriate behavior by teachers. The idea of expanding that measure of accountability is something senator Watson appeared to be open to.

"And there is going to be a debate, I think about how best to make sure in those instances somebody can report, and to whom they would report, if they want to have something to be prosecuted,” said Watson. 

Senator Watson went on to say additional legislation relating to the Statute of Limitation is expected.

The focus will be on a rape kits that have gone untested for years and when tested making sure they can still be used in court.