Students have expressed concern after a recent Minnesota Supreme Court decision that upheld a law that does not extend the definition of “mentally incapacitated” to voluntarily inebriated victims in cases of sexual violence.
This ruling reflects a loophole in Minnesota legislation that makes it more difficult to press charges against assailants if the victim was intoxicated. Lawmakers in Minnesota are working to address this outdated and harmful legislation.
This recent ruling should not impact the Title IX reporting process now known as the grievance process for St. Olaf students.
“While this is a clear loophole in the state’s definition, our St. Olaf policy doesn’t have that same loophole,” said Title IX Director Kari Hohn. “So if a student is too intoxicated to consent, that would violate our policy regardless of whether the student was drinking voluntarily. And I don’t foresee our policy changing in that regard.”
Hohn spoke on the impacts that this legislation may have if a student chooses to report an incident to the police, “the sphere where that ruling would have more of an influence” Hohn said. Hohn acknowledged that while the school’s policy may not change, the decision reflects a new hurdle for legal reporting.
While Hohn does anticipate that this legislation will be changed, “Until then, I would imagine this ruling negatively impacting individuals interested in reporting to law enforcement.” Hohn said. “Any insinuation that a survivor is at fault for what happened to them is extremely damaging, regardless of what next steps they’re considering.”
Hohn discussed the pervasive impacts that legislation like this can have on the emotional wellbeing of victims. “This can have a huge negative impact on victims and how they think about their experience and their ability to cope and deal with it,” Hohn said.
There is certainly reason to believe that this loophole in Minnesota’s sexual assault legislation will be changed in the coming months, though Hohn encourages students who are concerned about it, or anything else related to Title IX to reach out to her or any member of the Title IX team.