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Sexual assault advocates work to change Minnesota Supreme Court ruling

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MINNESOTA (KTTC) -- The Minnesota Supreme Court says rape victims that "voluntarily" get intoxicated, are not considered "mentally incapacitated."

The opinion is in response to a case where a man was convicted of taking an intoxicated woman home and allegedly sexually assaulting her. The court ruled that third degree criminal sexual conduct charges only apply when a victim is given alcohol "without a person's agreement."

"The Supreme Court's decision wasn't a surprise to me," sexual assault survivor and advocate Abby Honold said. "A lot of survivors have seen their cases not go forward in court due to this exact reason."

Olmsted County Attorney Mark Ostrem agrees.

"We see far too many cases like this," he said. "Our inability to take a case on when we know they've been violated and hurt, it's very difficult."

"I'm hopeful for this case in Hennepin County," Ostrem said. "That they still have another shot at this guy."

Advocates -- like Honold and Ostrem -- want to change that.

In 2019, the legislature created a criminal sexual conduct statutory reform work group in effort to address the issue. A report was submitted in early January of 2021. The report resulted in a companion bill -- co authored by Sen. Dave Senjem, (R) Rochester and Rep. Kelly Moller, (DFL) Shoreview.

Lindsay Brice, Law and Policy Director at Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assaults, was on the board that helped with the report. While this recent court opinion is tragic, she says it couldn't have come at a better time.

"That case just exemplifies why the work that we've been doing is so necessary," she said. Brice adds that the the bill is one of the most bipartisan bills she's seen.

Ostrem says there are other states who have passed similar bills -- including Wisconsin.

"We are not the first to go out there and make this change. And we need to get on board," he said.

The new bill, HF707, will be seen by the House Friday. There could be a vote on the floor soon.

Beret Leone

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