The topic of sexual assault has been greatly discussed in the era of #MeToo, where powerful figures are now facing consequences for their previous actions. In the midst of local and national dialogue regarding the prevalence and handling of sexual assault, what does the Maryland law have to say about what constitutes sexual assault?
Maryland law, as of 2017, states that “a person may not engage in ‘vaginal intercourse’, ‘sexual act’, or ‘sexual contact’ with another if the victim is a mentally incapacitated individual, and the person performing the act knows that the victim is a mentally incapacitated individual.”
Consent is not specifically defined in Maryland law. However, it does state that a person commits a sex crime if that person engages in vaginal intercourse or sexual acts by force, the threat of force or by manipulating cognitive impairment such as being intoxicated. This also counts consensual acts with people outside of predefined age ranges under statutory rape laws.
The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network serves as the nation’s largest anti-sexual assault organization. It offers statistics, resources and outreach programs that deal with assisting survivors of sexual assault. It also offers a direct hotline and live chat that is available on a 24/7 basis.
RAINN’s definition of consent differs from Maryland law in terms of its comprehensiveness. According to RAINN, “Consent is an agreement between participants to engage in sexual activity. There are many ways to give consent … Consent doesn’t have to be verbal, but verbally agreeing to different sexual activities can help both you and your partner respect each other’s boundaries.”
Additionally, separate gradations exist for sexual assault. The main differences between these separate categories involve the severity of the offense. These are categorized by first and second-degree rape and third and fourth-degree sexual assault. Both first and second-degree rape make mentions of vaginal intercourse, while third and fourth-degree sexual assault focus more on sexual contact such as inappropriate touching.
The defining difference between first and second-degree rape, as a well as the defining difference between third and fourth-degree sexual assault, is the additional presence of a dangerous weapon, threats or inflicting injury. These escalating factors will lead to a more severe punishment and categorization.
The website features stories from survivors, allowing visitors to hear and empathize with the people who have experienced assault firsthand. It also contains advice for dealing with the aftermath of an assault, including the procedures for making a report. From understanding and validating the experience to the pursuit of legal justice, the website contains a plethora of resources for survivors.
One of the organization’s goals is to affect public policy, including the addressing of the rape kit backlog, sustaining and expanding support services and protecting children from sexual assault.