How Can Sex Be "Partly Consensual"?S

Authorities in Evanston, Illinois will charge a 17-year-old student with misdemeanor criminal sexual abuse instead of a felony because the 14-year-old victim gave cops contradictory information. Apparently the sex was "not forced," as she originally claimed, but "partly consensual." Huh?

According to the Chicago Tribune, the victim originally told police that the 17-year-old forced her to have sex with him in a bathroom at their school. However, the Trib reports that a police-issued press release mentioned "certain inconsistencies" in the victim's original statement. "When questioned about those inconsistencies, the victim allegedly recanted some of her original statement, indicating the incident was partly consensual," said the statement.

"Partly consensual" indicates that part of the sex wasn't consensual. Shouldn't that part be a problem?

The police department's press release doesn't seem to be available on the City of Evanston's website yet, so it's hard to tell whether this strange-to-us phrasing is theirs or the Trib's. Illinois law defines sexual assault as rape; criminal sexual abuse is any unwanted sexual contact other than penetration, or—as Illinois law puts it—"commit[ting] an act of sexual penetration or sexual conduct with a victim who was at least 13 years of age but under 17 years of age and the accused was less than 5 years older than the victim," which seems to be the case here. But how does one separate the non-consensual parts of a sexual encounter from the consensual ones to arrive at such a charge? It's not like these things are ever cut-and-dried.

At any rate, let's hope the girl isn't recanting her statement because of peer pressure or fear—remember, there's a three-year age difference at play here. And let's also hope that if she does revert back to her original testimony, she doesn't go to jail for it.

Image by dreamsung via Flickr.