Currently, consent laws in Texas do not explicitly criminalize situations in which survivors are incapable of consent because of alcohol use.
A 2017 UT survey found 77% of sexual assault perpetrators and 56% of survivors used alcohol or drugs during incidents of sexual assault involving students.
State Rep. Nicole Collier, D-Fort Worth, wants to update the definition of consent to address these incidents. Last Thursday, Collier presented HB 2049 to the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, a bill that would expand current consent laws by adding several situations under which perpetrators can be charged. These situations include alcohol use, caretakers taking advantage of patients and coercion after consent has been revoked.
“The penal code lists several situations where consent is lacking for this offense,” Collier said. “Although this list includes many necessary situations, it is incomplete. This makes it difficult for prosecutors to charge and obtain a conviction for incidents that should clearly qualify as sexual assault.”
By including more sexual assault circumstances, Collier said the law would increase the likelihood of victims coming forward in Texas, which has high sexual assault rates.
Rylee Trotter, president of Not On My Campus, said her organization frequently consults victims who are afraid to report sexual assault during intoxication. Trotter said she would include HB 2049 in the educational slides they present.
“I think legally, there could be something to give survivors validation, even if they don’t know exactly what happened,” said Trotter, management information systems junior. “It could make a difference in giving justice to the survivors.”
Nathan Carlson, vice president of communication for UT Interfraternity Council, said fraternities work with Not On My Campus to educate new members on consent during intoxication situations. A hard liquor ban was implemented Jan. 1 to limit these situations at fraternity events.
“By ensuring that the availability of any alcohol at events is monitored and is being distributed by people who are qualified to do so, we can limit the amount of people getting into intoxicated states where decision making is impaired,” aerospace engineering senior Carlson said.
While student groups are working to limit sexual assault at drinking events, Collier hopes her bill will clarify the legality of these situations.
“How can we tell survivors to come forward and report a traumatic experience to police when the law itself is so lacking?” Collier said. “In this way, HB 2049 sends an important signal that sexual assault will not be tolerated in Texas.”