Laws regarding sexual assaults do
become a little more complicated since
the circumstances of an alleged sexual
assault may determine whether the
sexual contact is lawful or unlawful.  For
instance, a 14 year old female has
consensual intercourse with an 18 year
old male.  Your state statute may define
this example as rape, or some degree of
sexual assault; even though, the sexual
intercourse was consensual. The statute
may define the violation as sexual
intercourse with a female under the age
of 15 by a male four, or more, years
older than the victim as rape -- most
commonly referred to as statutory rape.

Let's say you're the police officer who
gets the call from the girl's parents in
this example.  You quickly determine that
the sex was consensual, and there is
absolutely no evidence to indicate the
alleged victim was forcibly raped.  The
parents -- understandably -- are livid,
and they're demanding the immediate
arrest of the suspect who they describe
as a "real dirtbag."

First things first.  You transport the
alleged victim, and her parents, to the
hospital where trained medical
professionals will conduct a Rape and
Sexual Assault Examination.  You'll be
provided with what is commonly referred
to as a Rape Kit which you'll submit for
laboratory analysis to determine the
presence of physical evidence to indicate
that intercourse did occur.

As your investigation continues, you
arrive at the home of the suspect in this
incident.  You meet the suspect and his
mother.  Almost immediately you're in
total agreement with the suspect's earlier
description as a "dirtbag."  The suspect is
arrogant, uncooperative, and he's
actually physically dirty.  The mother, on
the other hand, is totally cooperative,
and she answers all your questions
without reservation.  

You're taken back -- just a bit -- when
the mother provides you with the
suspect's date of birth.  Coincidentally,
the month and day of the suspect's date
of birth is exactly the same as that of the
alleged victim.  The year of birth does
verify that the suspect and alleged victim
are four years apart in age, but, is the
suspect actually four full years older than
the alleged victim?  The determining
factor will be who was born first on their
shared day of birth -- the suspect or the
alleged victim.

While this example is a bit bizarre, it
makes the point.  You will investigate
similar situations where age differences
will determine whether a sex crime has
occurred.  While the determining factor
probably won't be hours or minutes, it
could well be determined by months,
weeks, or even days.  An important thing
for you to remember is where age
differences do apply, the use or threat of
force is not a necessary component to
establish the crime of rape or other
degree of sexual assault.

There's no reason why you should be
confused in distinguishing rape from
other forms of sexual assaults.  Rape
always requires vaginal intercourse.  You
may be thinking, "What about attempted
rape?"  Sustaining an allegation of
attempted rape is more difficult than
attempts to commit other crimes.  

In a robbery, for instance, the robber
points a gun at a woman and states,
"Give me your money."  A police car rolls
around the corner, and the robber flees,
before any further interaction between
the victim and suspect has a chance to
occur.  It's obvious that a threat of force
was present.  It's equally obvious that
the suspect intended to rob the victim.
There's no question that investigating
allegations of rape and sexual assaults
can be a lot more difficult than other
types of crimes.  While the commission of
some sex crimes will be obvious, others
will not be so obvious.  Let's go from
your experience with the rapist in the
alley to where you're sent to a home for
a report of a rape.  You enter a well kept
home where a woman exhibiting obvious
intelligence tells you she'd been raped by
her husband.  She explains that she and
her husband have been discussing
separation for the past three months,
and, during that time, no sexual contact
was occurring.

As the woman explains the incident you
take note that the alleged victim does not
display any obvious signs of being
physically assaulted.  Your continued
observations within the home reveal no
evidence of any violent activity.  The
victim alleges that several hours earlier,
her husband pointed a handgun at her
and demanded sexual intercourse which
he completed before leaving the home.

Initially, things are pretty simple in this
example.  You locate the actual crime
scene and ensure that any physical
evidence is preserved such as bed sheets
upon which the intercourse allegedly took
place.  Remember, the victim told you
there'd been no sexual contact for the
past three months.  Once you establish
that the victim and suspect had been
sleeping apart, the presence of physical
evidence identifying the suspect would be
more significant.  However, the fact that
the suspect resides in the home lowers
that level of significance.

During your interview, you learn that the
handgun allegedly used is still on the
premises.  The victim directs you to a
bedroom closet, and she points to the
top shelf.  With your flashlight in hand,
you find something to stand on to bring
you to eye level with the top shelf.  You
spot a manufacturers box used to
package a revolver as described by the
victim.  As you closely examine the box,
you immediately begin to have doubts.  
No home, no matter how well kept, is
free of dust.  From every angle of your
observations, it doesn't appear that the
box has been accessed in some time.  Of
course...the box could be empty.  Very
carefully, you raise the lid only to find
that the gun is inside the box.  The gun
is well oiled, and you can't observe any
visible fingerprints on the gun.  At this
point, you've determined that if a gun
was used, this was not the gun.  You
stop your examination at this point,
because you want the box photographed
in place and its collection done my your
crime lab.

The victim's account of the alleged rape
has been seriously damaged.  That's not
to say that a rape didn't occur.  This
victim could have thrown in the gun part
just to strengthen the forcible part of the
offense.  You'll learn that victims, or
alleged victims, of sexual assaults may
embellish... particularly when the suspect
is known to the victim.  Needless to say,
this example of an alleged rape could end
up requiring a lot of investigation.

Always keep an open mind.  People have
sex on their minds all the time for one
reason or another, and sex will always be
the biggest complicator you can imagine.  
When it comes to sex crimes, its
complication factor increases dramatically.

The open mind advice is more important
than ever before.  When I began my
police career, rapes and sexual assaults
were just as serious as they are today,
but attitudes were much different.  Rape
and sexual assault victims have always
had advocates, but the advocates of the
past considered the involvement of police
and the criminal justice system as a
measure of -- absolute -- last resort.  
The experts of the past viewed police
involvement and the process of
prosecution as just another form of rape
for the victim.

How things do change.  Today, nearly all
the high profile advocates for sex crimes
victims haven't yet met an alleged victim
who hasn't been raped or sexually
assaulted.  With the advent of cable
news and the 24 hour news cycle, you
can find these sex crimes victims'
advocate experts everywhere.  Unlike the
advocates of the past, the new
advocates demand that the full weight of
the criminal justice system must descend
upon every man accused of a sexual
assault...or at least those men who they
identify as rapists and sexual predators.  
To be fair, there are advocates who are
genuinely fair minded, and their foremost
interest is in learning facts no matter
where those facts may lead.  You just
won't run into many of those types in
the pecking order.

When you begin your police career as a
patrol officer, your involvement in rape
investigations may be severely limited
while you'll be expected to fully
investigate other forms of sexual
assaults.  If you join a police department
which requires you to immediately notify
a rape or sex crimes detective whenever
a woman alleges rape (forcible vaginal
intercourse), you may think your
department takes the crime of rape very
seriously.  While that may be true, rape
is one of the eight Part One Crimes which
is used to measure the instances of
crimes and the effectiveness of a police
department's crime fighting efforts.  In
other words, if a police department has a
high number of rapes...that's bad.  If the
number is low... that's good.  
Coincidentally, in police departments
where the investigations of rapes are
tightly controlled through supposedly
highly trained specialized investigators,
you'll find that instances of rape remain
pretty low.

The truth is this.  When it comes to sex
crimes, you've got to immediately train
yourself to treat the allegation of a sex
crime just as seriously as any other
crime.  When you find yourself tasked
with the preliminary investigation of rape
or any other kind of sexual assault, you
must suppress any personal prejudices
you may have.  As a police officer, you
are the first line of defense for
everyone...victims as well as persons
wrongly accused of committing crimes.   
Rape and other variations of sexual
assaults have always been against the
law just like other crimes.  Even though
all statute law is written by legislatures
dominated by lawyers, most criminal law
statutes are pretty clear and easy to
In a situation where the suspect intends
to rape or sexually assault a victim, the
verbal communication of a suspect's
intent cannot be taken as literally as in
the robbery example.  Using the same
example, the suspect points the gun at
the woman and states, "Get in the alley
and take off your clothes."  You might be
saying, "His intent sounds pretty clear to
me."  Well, what do you think he's going
to do?  Is he going to rape the woman?  
Is he going to commit some other form
of sexual assault?  Is the victim wearing
some expensive item of clothing which
the suspect intends to steal?  Is the
suspect going to rob the victim leaving
her in a situation that will delay her
attempt to summon help?  Here's where
you come around the corner, and the
suspect flees, so you'll never really know.

While it's logical to believe your suspect
in the second example did intend some
form of sexual assault, you'll never be
able to prove what, if any, kind of sexual
assault he intended to commit.  While
most forms of sexual assaults can occur
quickly and with little effort by the
suspect, rape is different.  That's why
attempted rape will always require a
"close proximity to success" requirement.

Let's go back to our example.  You come
around the corner, and you hear a
woman screaming.  You look into the
alley where you see the woman lying on
her back.  She is nude from the waist
down, and the suspect is on his knees
between the woman's legs.  The suspect
is fully clothed, but it's clear that he is
committing a sexual assault.  He's so
engrossed in his activity that he doesn't
even hear you running up behind him.  
You grab his shoulder and pull him
backward and on down on his back.  You
immediately notice that his penis is
protruding from the front of his pants,
and it is fully erect.  His erection is quickly
lost...probably because he's looking
down the barrel of your pistol.

When it comes to sustaining a charge of
attempted rape, this is as good as it
gets.  It would strain the imagination to
believe that the suspect did not intend to
achieve vaginal penetration with his erect
penis.  While your sudden arrival
prevented the victim from suffering the
trauma of being raped, the suspect
would face the same consequences he
would face if he'd actually committed the
crime of rape.

Let's try this another way.  The suspect
only gets as far as telling the woman to
take off her clothes.  You chase and
apprehend the suspect. With what will
you charge the suspect?  You'll charge
him with assault for pointing the gun at
the victim.  During your investigation,
you find that the suspect was convicted
for a previous robbery where he made
the identical statement to that victim.  
Can you charge him with attempted
robbery.  No.  That was then, this is
now, but it does tell you that his intent
probably did not involve any intention to
commit rape or other sexual assault.  
Let's say the suspect's previous
conviction was for rape.  The same
standard applies, you only have what you
have.  However, the suspect's previous
conviction for rape under the same
circumstances will encourage the
prosecutor to vigorously prosecute the
suspect for the assault [pointing the
handgun] which is no small matter.
"People have sex on their minds all
the time for one reason or another,
and sex will always be the biggest
complicator you can imagine.  When
it comes to sex crimes, its
complication factor increases
dramatically." ~ Barry M. Baker
Copyright © 2018  Barry M. Baker