December 1, 2022
College campuses around the nation are awash in controversy over allegations, accusations, and a “rape culture.” Regardless of whether the incidents actually occurred, our President-elect has openly bragged about committing sexual assault, and has been accused by multiple women.
As a response to all the media coverage, we are starting to hold universities accountable for how they handle sexual assault cases, and moving forward with ways to prevent and safely report it. The Department of Education is currently holding over 200 investigations of over 195 American colleges and universities, looking into how each institution handles sexual assault reports.
Colorado State University is on that list, but the school is taking a stand with other schools in Colorado and the Colorado Attorney General’s Office to prevent sexual assault.
How? By educating people.
One of the most common approaches to prevention of any issue is education. The Colorado Attorney General’s Office has decided to begin funding a sexual assault prevention course that will be offered at different colleges and universities, including CSU-Fort Collins, CSU-Pueblo, Lamar Community College, Otero Junior College, and Pueblo Community College.
The course, “Haven,” is free for students of the above schools, and will be available online. It’s interactive, helping students navigate through the position of a bystander or other party in real-life sexual assault scenarios.
Hopefully educating more people about sexual assault will prevent more instances of it from happening. There is, however, a flip side to this. The more the issue appears in the media and is on people’s minds, the more likely everyone is to be looking for it.
Since sexual assault cases can be incredibly complex, that’s not necessarily a good thing, and could lead to overzealous policing and even false accusations.
The Complicated Nature of Sex Assault Cases in Colorado
Recently, a Colorado Springs hospital employee was arrested on charges of Sex Assault and Internet Luring of a Child.
While working at the hospital earlier in the summer, Matthew Wilson, 51, met a 15-year old boy on Grindr (a gay dating app) and engaged in sex acts with the teenager in the bathroom. The teenager reported the incident to police in August, and an investigation began.
A Colorado Springs police officer posed undercover on Grindr as a 14-year old boy. The undercover cop on Grindr exchanged explicit messages with Wilson until enough evidence was collected to obtain a search warrant. Police seized Wilson’s electronic devices at the hospital where he worked on October 19.
After a police interview, Wilson confessed to knowing that the undercover cop was claiming to be 14 years old, and still wanting to meet with him. He was charged with Sex Assault and Internet Luring of a Child, and is being held in prison on a $10,000 bond.
Seems pretty cut and dried, right? Let’s look at the law, though.
“Sexual assault” is commonly understood as engaging in sex acts without another person’s consent. The above case, however, shows that there is more to the definition that many people may understand. After all, the 15-year-old in Wilson’s case agreed to the sex acts that they performed.
According to Colorado state law, if any of the following apply during sexual penetration or intrusion, sexual assault has been committed:
- The defendant forces the victim to submit to the sexual activity against his or her will
- The defendant engages in sexual activity under the guise of offering a medical treatment
- The victim cannot understand the sexual activity that is occurring
- The defendant knows that the victim is unconscious, asleep, or otherwise cannot give consent
- The victim is under the age of 14, and the defendant is at least 4 years older
- The victim is 15 or 16 years old, and the defendant is at least 10 years older
- The defendant has authority over a detained victim (in jail, prison, a hospital, etc.) and uses the authority to coerce or force the victim into the sex act
If the above apply but penetration did not occur, Unlawful Sexual Contact has been committed.
If sexual assault is committed because the victim is 15 or 16 and the defendant is 10 years older (like in the case of Matthew Wilson), the crime is a class 1 misdemeanor but classified as an “extraordinary risk” crime. This classification increases the suggested sentencing range to between 6-24 months in jail and fines between $500 and $5,000.
But sexual assault, depending on the situation, can be up to a class 2 felony, with consequences including up to 48 years in prison, 5 years mandatory parole, and up to $1,000,000 in fines
The classes offered at Colorado schools will help to educate students on the definition of sexual assault and how to prevent it. Ideally, this will make it easier for someone to know if they have been assaulted and make them more likely to report it as well as helping people to understanding where the line is so that they do not cross it.
Bottom line If you have been accused of sexual assault or are facing sexual assault charges, it’s important to contact a lawyer immediately.
About the Author:
Denver-based criminal defense and DUI attorney Jacob E. Martinez is a knowledgeable and experienced litigator with a record of success providing innovative solutions to clients facing criminal charges of any severity. Mr. Martinez has been designated a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers and has been awarded both the Avvo Client’s Choice Award and Avvo Top Attorney designation, evidencing his reputation for his exemplary criminal and DUI defense work and high moral standards.