Editor’s note: Joyce M. Short is the author of a just released book, “Carnal Abuse by Deceit.” The book chronicles her life with a predator, the subsequent aftermath and her road to recovery. It also provides advice for victims and their supporters, and discusses the issues surrounding criminalization of rape-by-fraud.
By Joyce M. Short
A new case in New Jersey will soon test that concept.
Enforcers will determine whether rape law protects a person’s right to self determination over their personal sexual intimacy. They could decide that choice simply does not matter at all, or they could protect the victim’s entitlement to choice based on the same rights granted in every other human interaction.
Way back when Rome ruled the world, rape was established as a crime only when a woman who was a virgin, and not a slave, was victimized. “Harm” was allocated to the owner of her virginity, the head of her household, and our laws have not progressed much from there.
Today, some states have laws to protect married women from being hoodwinked into sexual intercourse with a man who pretends to be her husband, but those same states fail to apply the same principal to an unmarried woman if a man pretends to be her boyfriend. Impostor rape, also known as rape by fraud, where biographical information is fraudulent, is the same in both situations. But it is treated as a crime against a married woman only because her husband is cheated of his wife’s purity.
The egregious concept behind this misguided mindset is that defrauding a married woman commits adultery against her husband and is, therefore, a criminal offense. Rape law fails to recognize that the woman’s marital status, and who the offender pretended to be are irrelevant. That they pretended to be a person they were not robbed the victim of the “knowing consent” they were entitled to in deciding who to engage in sex with.
The real harm in rape
Most states have yet to recognize or embrace the real harm in rape — the violation of one’s most intimate core, the breach of self determination regarding one’s own personal sexuality. Our laws struggle with concepts that dance around what rape really is. Instead, they focus on what penetrates, where it penetrates, how it penetrates and who it penetrates. They hark back to the origins of the laws with little concern to the real victim of the crime. They lack the simple concept that any sexual penetration without “knowing consent,” is rape.
Criminal code for invading a person’s integrity abound in every other aspect of human interaction. One can be punished for achieving personal gain through assault, coercion, fraud, deceit, theft, robbery, or any means that breaches the “covenant of good faith” or “knowing consent” between two parties. If a person lied about biographical information to consummate a business transaction, criminal code exists to recognize and penalize such wrongdoing as fraud. But to lie about biographical information to defraud a victim of sex is blithely treated as the “puffery” of seduction, as if property has more value to a person than their basic and most intimate sexual autonomy.
Rape never goes away. The victim carries a sense of defilement in their psyche for a lifetime. People who are raped are thirteen times more apt to commit suicide than people who are not. It’s time to speak out and let our lawmakers know that all types of rape — by assault, by treachery, date rape, statutory rape, rape by mental incapacity — whether permanent or temporary, rape by fraud or deceit, and rape by coercion, should all be punishable offenses throughout a moral society.
We will soon know whether the laws in New Jersey protect a woman’s right to choose who they have sex with or not. Stay tuned for the results.