Does sex through fraud constitute rape?

Not according to Massachusetts' Supreme Judicial Court.

Topics: Broadsheet, Violence Against Women, Love and Sex,

In Massachusetts, rape is defined as sex by force. Period, end of story. Unfortunately, the reality of rape isn’t always so black and white. Take the case of a Hampden County woman who says she was raped by her boyfriend’s brother — not by force, though.

She was living with her boyfriend, Duane Suliveres, in the basement of his father’s home, reports the Boston Globe. Duane’s brother, Alvin, also lived in the house. One morning, when Duane was working a graveyard shift, the woman says she awoke at 3 a.m. to a man walking into her room. It was dark, she couldn’t make out who the person was, but naturally assumed it was her boyfriend. She then asked, “Duane, why are you home so early?” No response. The man then climbed into bed with her, took off her clothes and had sex with her. Afterward, the man got up to leave and, once he opened the door, she realized it was Alvin, not Duane.

So, was this rape? The original trial ended in a hung jury in 2006 and then went to the state Supreme Judicial Court, which ruled Thursday that the rape charges should have been dismissed because Massachusetts law clearly defines rape as an act of force. The court may have closely followed the letter of the law, but rape victim advocates are outraged. “The message that the court sends today is … that a man’s ability to obtain sex through fraud with regard to who he is is more important than a woman’s fundamental right to control her own body,” said Wendy J. Murphy, a professor at the New England School of Law. “It is impossible — as a matter of fact and law — to consent to sex with the wrong person.”



Alvin maintains that he didn’t pose as his brother and the sex was completely consensual, but, regardless, the law doesn’t allow for a conviction in this case. Massachusetts’ legal definition of rape does seem dangerously out of date; for sex obtained through fraud to count as rape, state lawmakers have to update the law. A handful of sensible states have already broadened their legal definition of rape — it’s time for Massachusetts (and we haven’t forgotten about you, Maryland) to get with the program.

Tracy Clark-Flory

Tracy Clark-Flory is a staff writer at Salon. Follow @tracyclarkflory on Twitter and Facebook.

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    "Roman Candle" turns 20: Secrets of Elliott Smith's accidental masterpiece (slideshow)

    Elliott and the friends with whom he recorded in middle school in Texas (photo courtesy of Dan Pickering)

    "Roman Candle" turns 20: Secrets of Elliott Smith's accidental masterpiece (slideshow)

    Heatmiser publicity shot (L-R: Tony Lash, Brandt Peterson, Neil Gust, Elliott Smith) (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)

    "Roman Candle" turns 20: Secrets of Elliott Smith's accidental masterpiece (slideshow)

    Elliott and JJ Gonson (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)

    "Roman Candle" turns 20: Secrets of Elliott Smith's accidental masterpiece (slideshow)

    "Stray" 7-inch, Cavity Search Records (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)

    "Roman Candle" turns 20: Secrets of Elliott Smith's accidental masterpiece (slideshow)

    Elliott's Hampshire College ID photo, 1987

    "Roman Candle" turns 20: Secrets of Elliott Smith's accidental masterpiece (slideshow)

    Elliott with "Le Domino," the guitar he used on "Roman Candle" (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)

    "Roman Candle" turns 20: Secrets of Elliott Smith's accidental masterpiece (slideshow)

    Full "Roman Candle" record cover (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)

    "Roman Candle" turns 20: Secrets of Elliott Smith's accidental masterpiece (slideshow)

    Elliott goofing off in Portland (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)

    "Roman Candle" turns 20: Secrets of Elliott Smith's accidental masterpiece (slideshow)

    Heatmiser (L-R: Elliott Smith, Neil Gust, Tony Lash, Brandt Peterson)(courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)

    "Roman Candle" turns 20: Secrets of Elliott Smith's accidental masterpiece (slideshow)

    The Greenhouse Sleeve -- Cassette sleeve from Murder of Crows release, 1988, with first appearance of Condor Avenue (photo courtesy of Glynnis Fawkes)

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>