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Sexual Assault Law in Colorado Leaves Out a Key Word: Consent

DENVER (CBS4)- The way the law defines sexual assault in Colorado could soon change. Right now, there is no mention of the word "consent" in the law, even though consent is key in proving sexual assault cases in court.

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"What we're trying to do is help juries understand that sexual assault occurs when there is no consent," says Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet, a Democrat who is sponsoring the bill with Republican Rep. Matt Soper.

The current law says sexual assault happens when "the actor causes submission of the victim by means of sufficient consequence reasonably calculated to cause submission against the victim's will."

"What does that even mean?" says Michaelson Jenet.

Her bill says sexual assault happens when "the actor causes sexual intrusion or sexual penetration knowing the victim does not consent."

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Kate, who was raped on Valentine's Day last year, hasn't talked publicly about her rape until now. She plans to testify in favor of the bill.

"It's worth the emotional process of testifying to me, if it means that we're one step closer to others not going through the same experience as I have," said Kate.

The current law was written nearly fifty years ago when a spouse couldn't be charged with sexual assault and when only women could be victims of sexual assault. Jessica Dotter with the Colorado District Attorneys' Council advocated for the change.

"It's clear, it's concise, it's what parents, teachers, peers use to talk about sex assault, so how juries should be deciding as well," said Dotter.

Kate says she didn't report her rape because the law was stacked against survivors, "Seeing this change in the statue helps say 'We see you survivors, we see you victims, you are enough... your experience is valid. What happened to you is not okay, it's not your fault and there's support in the system for you.'"

Not only is "consent" a word juries understand, but it's also defined in Colorado law as cooperation with free will, knowledge, and not under the influence of fear.

The law also says just because a person consents once doesn't mean they consent every time after that. So far, the bill no opposition. It will receive its first committee hearing Tuesday, Feb. 15.

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