So....shall we talk about expanding definitions?
Our definition of sexual assault is any type of sexual behavior or contact where consent is not freely given or obtained and is accomplished through force, intimidation, violence, coercion, manipulation, threat, deception, or abuse of authority. This definition gets beyond our society’s narrow understanding of the issue and expands the spectrum of actions to be considered sexual assault.
("Rid Of My Disgrace" by Lindsey and Justin Holcomb)
What is the problem with this definition?
"assault" is an ugly word, and it should be. But (for the sake of the victim and the aggressor) it needs to be defined objectively.
For instance, define "freely given" - does that mean that a partner needs to explicitly give consent each and every time an encounter happens? Does it mean that a consent that was granted when a wife accepts her husband's advances because he wanted her, even though she wasn't in that perfect "mood," that consent was not "freely" given?
Who gets to decide when "manipulation" happened?
The big one is "abuse of authority" - I'm firmly in the complementarian camp and I believe that the husband is an authority over his wife. If there is a pattern of him denied access to the blessings of the marriage covenant, and presses the issue, is that an "abuse of authority?"
These are subjective definitions.
If a girl or woman was treated inappropriately, does that rise to the level of "assault"?
For instance...when I was a teen, one of the fashions of the day was a button up shirt...not buttoned, but tied in a knot right at the bridge of the bra. Lots of cleavage there. (this, by the way, is something that I may have told one or two people...ever) A friend and I had been baby-sitting and when the man in the home came to pay us and send us on our way, he got real close to me, put the backs of his fingers inside my shirt and stroked my breast.
It was sexual behavior, consent was not give, and I felt intimidated. Inappropriate, certainly. Absolutely - and I was very uncomfortable with it. But, Inever ratcheted up to the level of "assault."
I rarely think about the incident, only when I hear similar stories, only the "victim" is so wound up about her "assault" that she cannot function. I end up thinking..."really?"
I have a friend who was brutally raped by multiple young men. The wounds went deep, and they should.
I have a problem when the distinction between my incident and gang rape is blurred. There should be "levels of guilt" (for lack of a better term) in this area. If we bring everything to the level of "assault" - then everything is assault and everybody is a victim. I'm not prepared to live life as a victim.
Women are strong (or should be) and resilient (or should be) - instead of being told that we are all victims of assault, we should be taught to distinguish between those levels and deal with the behavior at that level.
My friend, Jan, has what her husband calls the "awfulizer" - she can take a fairly mundane thing and "awfulize" it (but can't we all?")
By taking an inappropriate act and "awfulizing" into "assault" we are running the risk of taking an objective definition, leaving it at the mercy of subjective feelings, then having a few women "awfulize" it, leaving men to wonder if they're going to be forever branded as sex criminals on Megan's List.
That could be a very bad thing.