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Date Rape, Pt. 1: Charges and Investigations

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Understanding Date Rape Charges and Investigations

The issue of sexual assault has become one of the most complex legal challenges of our time. As society changes, there has been a greater effort to increase awareness about sexual assault in all of its forms. This includes the type of sexual assault known as date rape.

It’s important to understand the way that cases of date rape can be handled by the legal system. Date rape is a crime, as is any form of sexual assault. Knowing some information about what constitutes date rape and how it can be investigated by law enforcement can help people have a deeper understanding of this important topic.

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What Is Date Rape?

To put it directly, date rape is sexual assault. There is no legal distinction between sexual assault and date rape. The term “date rape” is primarily used to illustrate a difference between sexual assault committed by a stranger and sexual assault committed by a romantic partner.

Date rape can happen in a variety of circumstances but, as the name implies, it often occurs in the context of a romantic relationship or on a date.

For example, Brian takes Becky out for dinner and a movie. Afterwards, they go back to Brian’s place for drinks. They both become intoxicated and Brian tries to undress Becky. Becky tells him repeatedly to stop and that she wants to leave. Brian ignores her and forces her onto a bed to have sex with her. Brian has committed sexual assault. In the context of the crime, the sexual assault could be referred to as date rape.

Section 22.011 of the Texas Penal Code specifies that any act of sexual penetration that occurs without consent is sexual assault. This includes incidents when:

  • A person refused or did not give consent
  • A person was unconscious or unable to give consent
  • A person was drugged or did not understand the nature of what was happening
  • A person was mentally incapable of understanding consent

There is no technical legal distinction between stranger rape and date rape. However, due to the nature of these two offenses, date rape may present unique challenges when it comes to investigation and prosecution.

Reporting Date Rape

Unfortunately, many instances of date rape are unreported. Victims of date rape may not even realize that what happened to them is illegal. They may try to rationalize or justify the actions of their partner.

When date rape is reported, it is investigated much like other crimes. Investigators will take statements from the alleged assailant and the alleged victim. A special sex crimes investigator may have the alleged victim undergo a rape kit and special questioning to determine if non-consensual sex occurred.

One of the purposes of the investigative process is to determine what actually happened during the alleged assault. Date rape can happen under a variety of circumstances. In some cases, one of the partners may not consent to sex but may be too frightened to refuse or fight back. Under Texas law, a person who is too afraid to refuse is still the victim of a crime.

One of the partners may have been too intoxicated to understand what was happening or they may have fallen unconscious. Many dating scenarios involve consumption of alcohol but this is no excuse for non-consensual sex. Investigators may perform blood-alcohol tests and drug tests to find out the level of intoxication of both parties.

Investigating Date Rape

Many things will happen during the course of an investigation. Primarily, law enforcement will try to establish a clear picture of what happened during the alleged events. This can be somewhat difficult to do in cases of date rape.

In many date rape cases, the two most significant pieces of evidence are the testimony of the alleged assailant and the alleged victim. This creates a situation often referred to as “he said, she said“, where the testimony of one party is the only evidence against the other party.

However, other forms of evidence can be gathered. Security footage from restaurants and bars may have clues about a person’s state of intoxication. Text messages or cell phone records may help to corroborate or question one party’s timeline of the events.

Physical evidence can be extremely important in these cases. Victims of sexual assault who undergo a rape kit as soon as possible may be able to maintain important evidence. Taking a shower or washing can remove this evidence so law enforcement will try to perform this investigation as soon as possible after a report is filed.

If there is sufficient evidence to corroborate the claims of the alleged victim, the victim may be asked if they wish to press charges. If the victim chooses to press charges, the alleged assailant can be arrested, jailed and formally charged. At this stage, the case can proceed to the preliminary phases of a trial or to a plea deal.

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