Editorial: New legislation stricter on sexual assault criminals
Published: Monday, April 22, 2013
Updated: Friday, August 23, 2013 16:08
The Connecticut state Judiciary Committee approved legislation last week that would close a loophole in the state’s sexual assault laws for victims that have developmental and intellectual disabilities.In 2012, the state Supreme Court decided that a person is not considered physically helpless, in the eyes of the law, unless he or she has a disability that leaves him or her unconscious. Then, and only then, did the state of Conn. consider someone unable to resist his or her attacker.
The case is put in context given a story concerning a woman whose disabilities included a mental disability, cerebral palsy and a condition that allows fluid to build-up in the skull causing brain swelling called hydrocephalus. The court found that she was not helpless against her attacker, despite her inability to walk or speak, because of her ability to bite, kick and scratch to demonstrate resistance. While it’s necessary for the court to consider the possibility that an attacker might not think of him or herself as an attacker unless told otherwise, this case makes a clear argument that that simply isn’t who this law is protecting.
By changing the law and closing this harmful loophole the Conn. state government has demonstrated a commitment to victims of these crimes and a commitment to the state and its citizens. The loophole was built into the legislation not out of ignorance or malice toward people with disabilities. It was simply a precautionary measure to ensure that no attacker is damned due to a misunderstanding. However, the state of Conn. should be commended for recognizing a glaring error in their reasoning and, unlike many in government who are too headstrong to admit a failure in judgment, took immediate measures to correct and close this harmful loophole.
Thanks to this foresight and quick reaction, those with physical and intellectual disabilities can now not worry if they cannot actually say the word “no” to his or her attacker. There is now clarity about what it means for a person with disabilities to resist his or her attacker. They now have the government on their side rather than their attacker’s.
Swiftness and an ability to recognize a mistake is what makes the passing of this new legislation something special. In a world when the American people regularly see their government deadlocked across party lines on almost every major issue, it is refreshing to see legislators making decisions to benefit, protect and provide for the people that they govern.
We can only hope that, moving forward, we can trust those that run our government to continue to provide for our best welfare and interests and avoid getting bogged down in party politics or headstrong adherence to the first thought. When safety is on the line, let us hope that our government continues to act in the way that it did with this new legislation.