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Utah lawmaker Angela Romero proposes 'affirmative consent' bill

Utah Representative Angela Romero
equalityutah.org
Utah Representative Angela Romero

Utah legislator Angela Romero, who represents the 26th district in the Utah House of Representatives, has worked with Julie Valentine, a nursing professor at Brigham Young University, to introduce House Bill 98, a bill that would make sexual conduct without affirmative consent a third-degree felony.

According to BYU nursing professor, Julie Valentine, not believing sexual assault victims translates to victims not reporting their cases, which promotes the continuation of a cycle where violence perpetuates.

“We have a very conservative state. In areas, communities that are very conservative, many times there are more victim blaming, myths abound, and the biggest one is that there's a lot of false reporting and rape; and I'm a researcher, and I will tell you, that is not true. There have been many studies that have looked at false reporting and rape does happen. It's about two to eight percent. The FBI's big study was five percent, that's the same as other crimes,” Valentine said.

Critics of House Bill 98 argue that its interpretation could be overly broad, and that a prosecution could be brought against married couples, or individuals unaware of the need for affirmative consent.

Rep. Angela Romero explained what affirmative consent consists of.

“Those arguments have been used against me whenever I run sexual assault legislation. So it's not new to this bill. If somebody sexually assaulted their partner, if they're in an intimate partner relationship, then they should be held accountable; but I can tell you this, I hear this all the time: “Well, do I have to get a note from my wife?” And my thing is: “Is your wife going to turn you to the police? I get tired of that, is like: “Oh, I'm going to have to get a note because I have to have affirmative consent.” And, if you look at the law by words or actions, and if you're in a committed relationship and that person does not want to go down that road with you and you still force them to do that, that's rape, I don't care if you're in a relationship. So, it's about boundaries and it’s about respect,” Rep. Romero said.

According to Rep. Romero, not every person who experienced sexual assault is going to report it to law enforcement because they feel like they will not be believed.

“Maybe it is an acquaintance, and they don't want to go down that road; and so, what we always encourage survivors to do is to get in touch with a rape crisis center, and make sure that they're healing on their own terms, and they're able to move forward with their lives. So, outside of the prosecution piece, we're doing a lot of legislation to be supportive of victims because so many times we do everything that we can to help people rehabilitate, and I'm all for that, I'm all about restorative justice,” Rep. Romero said.

To listen to the full interview on Access Utah, go to upr.org/show/access-utah

Manuel Giron produces news content at UPR. As a bilingual reporter, he writes stories in English and Spanish, and is involved in all steps of the reporting process from thinking of story ideas to writing the stories and preparing them for air. He is a Senior at Utah State University majoring in Political Science and minoring in Portuguese. He loves to write, read, listen to music, and swim. He is incredibly excited about working for UPR and learning about journalism in the process.