At issue in Rockville, Annapolis: What do sex-assault victims’ actions mean?

WASHINGTON — The question of how victims’ actions are analyzed in sexual assault and rape cases is the topic of legislation in Annapolis, and part of a legal argument being made in a Montgomery County case that’s gotten national attention.

The attorneys for the two teenagers accused of raping a 14-year-old fellow Rockville High school student argue that what happened in a boy’s bathroom at the school was not a crime but a consensual act.

Andrew Jezic, the attorney for 18-year-old defendant Henry Sanchez Milian, told WTOP that the police affidavit contains no evidence of physical resistance by the victim: “There are no scratches; there’s no bruises.”

He adds that there’s no evidence the girl cried out for help: “There’s absolutely no indication of any screaming or any cries for help whatsoever,” Jezic said. Prosecutors say the girl cried out in pain during the assault.

Lisae Jordan, executive director of the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault, called those comments “appalling.”

Jordan has testified at the State House in support of a bill that says “physical resistance by a victim is not required to prove that a sexual crime was committed.” Versions of the bill have already cleared the House and Senate; each house is considering the other’s version.

Jordan said the idea that a victim should have to prove that he or she fought off a sexual assault or rape is the product of “archaic thinking.”

In the Rockville High case, Jordan also objected to the argument that, because the girl reportedly sent texts and images to one of the defendants, she agreed to what happened.

“A flirtatious message, a suggestive message; it’s not an enforceable contract, and it doesn’t mean that you have to have sex,” Jordan said. “You get to withdraw your consent, and if someone has sex with you without your consent — that’s rape.”

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