The Utah Court of Appeals ruled this week that a woman's delay in reporting rape, her lack of violent resistance and the absence of physical evidence do not mean the rape didn't occur.
In a ruling released Monday, the court upheld the rape and attempted rape convictions of a southern Utah teenager who assaulted two high school classmates in 1989.The boy was convicted in the 1989 Halloween night rape of the first girl and a May 22 attempted rape of second girl. All three juveniles were 15 at the time the incidents occurred and were identified by initials in court records because of their youth.
In a 13-page ruling, the court detailed previous rulings and studies that suggested failure to immediately report the rape and lack of violent resistance are common behaviors in rape victims and do not indicate consent on the part of the victims.
Studies suggest that the more violently a woman resists attack, the greater her chances of injury, the court said. Women are often advised by law enforcement officials not to violently resist attackers.
Hence, the absence of violent resistance does not indicate consent, the three-judge panel ruled.
The attorney for the boy had argued that both incidents occurred with the consent of the girls and that 5th District Juvenile Judge Joseph E. Jackson, Cedar City, did not have sufficient evidence to convict the boy of the two charges.
Court records showed that the boy and one girl met after school to go trick-or-treating last year. Upon learning that day that the girl liked him, the boy told friends he might have sex with her later that night.
As the two left the school grounds, the boy pushed the girl into a pump room near the school swimming pool and began kissing and fondling her. She resisted, telling him "no," reminding him that he had a girlfriend and insisting she was just his friend.
The court found that the boy forced the girl to have sexual intercourse.
The boy's friends stayed outside the pump room laughing and trying to look in the window during the incident, court records showed.
The friends testified that they did not hear the girl scream for help. But the court found that the girl was reasonable when she assumed that boys laughing outside the pump room probably would not help her.
The girl did not tell family or friends about the incident until the school principal called her several weeks later to ask about it. The boy had been bragging about it to classmates.
The boy used her delay in reporting the incident to support his claim of consent.
But the court found her failure to report the incident because of shame and embarrassment credible and consistent with many rape victims' behavior.
The court upheld the attempted rape conviction of the other girl, saying that even though their encounter began as "a consensual romantic encounter," he persisted in attempts to have intercourse with the girl long after she made her objections clear.
In a May 1989 school encounter, the became aggressive with the girl, forcing her to the floor, removing her clothing and attempting intercourse despite her objections.
The three-judge panel said in its opinion that the lower court found both girls' testimonies more credible than the assailant's, and the appeals court saw no reason to question the lower court's perception.