Laws regarding sexual assaults do become a little
more complicated since the circumstances of an
alleged sexual assault may determine whether the
sexual contact is lawful or unlawful.  For instance, a
14 year old female has consensual intercourse with
an 18 year old male.  Your state statute may define
this example as rape, or some degree of sexual
assault; even though, the sexual intercourse was
consensual. The statute may define the violation as
sexual intercourse with a female under the age of
15 by a male four, or more, years older than the
victim as rape -- most commonly referred to as
statutory rape.

Let's say you're the police officer who gets the call
from the girl's parents in this example.  You quickly
determine that the sex was consensual, and there
is absolutely no evidence to indicate the alleged
victim was forcibly raped.  The parents --
understandably -- are livid, and they're demanding
the immediate arrest of the suspect who they
describe as a "real dirtbag."

First things first.  You transport the alleged victim,
and her parents, to the hospital where trained
medical professionals will conduct a Rape and
Sexual Assault Examination.  You'll be provided with
what is commonly referred to as a Rape Kit which
you'll submit for laboratory analysis to determine
the presence of physical evidence to indicate that
intercourse did occur.

As your investigation continues, you arrive at the
home of the suspect in this incident.  You meet the
suspect and his mother.  Almost immediately you're
in total agreement with the suspect's earlier
description as a "dirtbag."  The suspect is arrogant,
uncooperative, and he's actually physically dirty.  
The mother, on the other hand, is totally
cooperative, and she answers all your questions
without reservation.  

You're taken back -- just a bit -- when the mother
provides you with the suspect's date of birth.  
Coincidentally, the month and day of the suspect's
date of birth is exactly the same as that of the
alleged victim.  The year of birth does verify that the
suspect and alleged victim are four years apart in
age, but, is the suspect actually four full years older
than the alleged victim?  The determining factor will
be who was born first on their shared day of birth
-- the suspect or the alleged victim.

While this example is a bit bizarre, it makes the
point.  You will investigate similar situations where
age differences will determine whether a sex crime
has occurred.  While the determining factor
probably won't be hours or minutes, it could well be
determined by months, weeks, or even days.  An
important thing for you to remember is where age
differences do apply, the use or threat of force is
not a necessary component to establish the crime
of rape or other degree of sexual assault.

There's no reason why you should be confused in
distinguishing rape from other forms of sexual
assaults.  Rape always requires vaginal intercourse.  
You may be thinking, "What about attempted
rape?"  Sustaining an allegation of attempted rape
is more difficult than attempts to commit other

In a robbery, for instance, the robber points a gun
at a woman and states, "Give me your money."  A
police car rolls around the corner, and the robber
flees, before any further interaction between the
victim and suspect has a chance to occur.  It's
obvious that a threat of force was present.  It's
equally obvious that the suspect intended to rob
the victim.
There's no question that investigating allegations of
rape and sexual assaults can be a lot more difficult
than other types of crimes.  While the commission
of some sex crimes will be obvious, others will not
be so obvious.  Let's go from your experience with
the rapist in the alley to where you're sent to a
home for a report of a rape.  You enter a well kept
home where a woman exhibiting obvious intelligence
tells you she'd been raped by her husband.  She
explains that she and her husband have been
discussing separation for the past three months,
and, during that time, no sexual contact was

As the woman explains the incident you take note
that the alleged victim does not display any obvious
signs of being physically assaulted.  Your continued
observations within the home reveal no evidence of
any violent activity.  The victim alleges that several
hours earlier, her husband pointed a handgun at
her and demanded sexual intercourse which he
completed before leaving the home.

Initially, things are pretty simple in this example.  
You locate the actual crime scene and ensure that
any physical evidence is preserved such as bed
sheets upon which the intercourse allegedly took
place.  Remember, the victim told you there'd been
no sexual contact for the past three months.  Once
you establish that the victim and suspect had been
sleeping apart, the presence of physical evidence
identifying the suspect would be more significant.  
However, the fact that the suspect resides in the
home lowers that level of significance.

During your interview, you learn that the handgun
allegedly used is still on the premises.  The victim
directs you to a bedroom closet, and she points to
the top shelf.  With your flashlight in hand, you find
something to stand on to bring you to eye level
with the top shelf.  You spot a manufacturers box
used to package a revolver as described by the
victim.  As you closely examine the box, you
immediately begin to have doubts.  No home, no
matter how well kept, is free of dust.  From every
angle of your observations, it doesn't appear that
the box has been accessed in some time.  Of
course...the box could be empty.  Very carefully,
you raise the lid only to find that the gun is inside
the box.  The gun is well oiled, and you can't
observe any visible fingerprints on the gun.  At this
point, you've determined that if a gun was used,
this was not the gun.  You stop your examination
at this point, because you want the box
photographed in place and its collection done my
your crime lab.

The victim's account of the alleged rape has been
seriously damaged.  That's not to say that a rape
didn't occur.  This victim could have thrown in the
gun part just to strengthen the forcible part of the
offense.  You'll learn that victims, or alleged victims,
of sexual assaults may embellish... particularly when
the suspect is known to the victim.  Needless to
say, this example of an alleged rape could end up
requiring a lot of investigation.

Always keep an open mind.  People have sex on
their minds all the time for one reason or another,
and sex will always be the biggest complicator you
can imagine.  When it comes to sex crimes, its
complication factor increases dramatically.

The open mind advice is more important than ever
before.  When I began my police career, rapes and
sexual assaults were just as serious as they are
today, but attitudes were much different.  Rape and
sexual assault victims have always had advocates,
but the advocates of the past considered the
involvement of police and the criminal justice
system as a measure of -- absolute -- last resort.  
The experts of the past viewed police involvement
and the process of prosecution as just another
form of rape for the victim.

How things do change.  Today, nearly all the high
profile advocates for sex crimes victims haven't yet
met an alleged victim who hasn't been raped or
sexually assaulted.  With the advent of cable news
and the 24 hour news cycle, you can find these sex
crimes victims' advocate experts everywhere.  Unlike
the advocates of the past, the new advocates
demand that the full weight of the criminal justice
system must descend upon every man accused of a
sexual assault...or at least those men who they
identify as rapists and sexual predators.  To be fair,
there are advocates who are genuinely fair minded,
and their foremost interest is in learning facts no
matter where those facts may lead.  You just won't
run into many of those types in the pecking order.

When you begin your police career as a patrol
officer, your involvement in rape investigations may
be severely limited while you'll be expected to fully
investigate other forms of sexual assaults.  If you
join a police department which requires you to
immediately notify a rape or sex crimes detective
whenever a woman alleges rape (forcible vaginal
intercourse), you may think your department takes
the crime of rape very seriously.  While that may be
true, rape is one of the eight Part One Crimes which
is used to measure the instances of crimes and the
effectiveness of a police department's crime fighting
efforts.  In other words, if a police department has
a high number of rapes...that's bad.  If the number
is low... that's good.  Coincidentally, in police
departments where the investigations of rapes are
tightly controlled through supposedly highly trained
specialized investigators, you'll find that instances
of rape remain pretty low.

The truth is this.  When it comes to sex crimes,
you've got to immediately train yourself to treat the
allegation of a sex crime just as seriously as any
other crime.  When you find yourself tasked with
the preliminary investigation of rape or any other
kind of sexual assault, you must suppress any
personal prejudices you may have.  As a police
officer, you are the first line of defense for
everyone...victims as well as persons wrongly
accused of committing crimes.   
Rape and other variations of sexual assaults have
always been against the law just like other crimes.  
Even though all statute law is written by legislatures
dominated by lawyers, most criminal law statutes
are pretty clear and easy to understand.
In a situation where the suspect intends to rape or
sexually assault a victim, the verbal communication
of a suspect's intent cannot be taken as literally as
in the robbery example.  Using the same example,
the suspect points the gun at the woman and
states, "Get in the alley and take off your clothes."  
You might be saying, "His intent sounds pretty clear
to me."  Well, what do you think he's going to do?  
Is he going to rape the woman?  Is he going to
commit some other form of sexual assault?  Is the
victim wearing some expensive item of clothing
which the suspect intends to steal?  Is the suspect
going to rob the victim leaving her in a situation
that will delay her attempt to summon help?  Here's
where you come around the corner, and the
suspect flees, so you'll never really know.

While it's logical to believe your suspect in the
second example did intend some form of sexual
assault, you'll never be able to prove what, if any,
kind of sexual assault he intended to commit.  While
most forms of sexual assaults can occur quickly and
with little effort by the suspect, rape is different.  
That's why attempted rape will always require a
"close proximity to success" requirement.

Let's go back to our example.  You come around
the corner, and you hear a woman screaming.  You
look into the alley where you see the woman lying
on her back.  She is nude from the waist down, and
the suspect is on his knees between the woman's
legs.  The suspect is fully clothed, but it's clear that
he is committing a sexual assault.  He's so
engrossed in his activity that he doesn't even hear
you running up behind him.  You grab his shoulder
and pull him backward and on down on his back.  
You immediately notice that his penis is protruding
from the front of his pants, and it is fully erect.  His
erection is quickly lost...probably because he's
looking down the barrel of your pistol.

When it comes to sustaining a charge of attempted
rape, this is as good as it gets.  It would strain the
imagination to believe that the suspect did not
intend to achieve vaginal penetration with his erect
penis.  While your sudden arrival prevented the
victim from suffering the trauma of being raped, the
suspect would face the same consequences he
would face if he'd actually committed the crime of

Let's try this another way.  The suspect only gets
as far as telling the woman to take off her clothes.  
You chase and apprehend the suspect. With what
will you charge the suspect?  You'll charge him with
assault for pointing the gun at the victim.  During
your investigation, you find that the suspect was
convicted for a previous robbery where he made the
identical statement to that victim.  Can you charge
him with attempted robbery.  No.  That was then,
this is now, but it does tell you that his intent
probably did not involve any intention to commit
rape or other sexual assault.  Let's say the
suspect's previous conviction was for rape.  The
same standard applies, you only have what you
have.  However, the suspect's previous conviction
for rape under the same circumstances will
encourage the prosecutor to vigorously prosecute
the suspect for the assault [pointing the handgun]
which is no small matter.
"People have sex on their minds all the time for
one reason or another, and sex will always be
the biggest complicator you can imagine.  When
it comes to sex crimes, its complication factor
increases dramatically." ~ Barry M. Baker
Copyright © 2019  Barry M. Baker