Issues of consent and Article 120 UCMJ
Article 120 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) deals with various sexual offenses, including rape, sexual assault, and indecent acts. One of the key elements of these offenses is the issue of consent.
Consent is an essential element in any sexual encounter.
It is the responsibility of both parties to ensure that they have clear and explicit consent before engaging in any sexual activity. Consent must be freely given, without coercion, and obtained from a person who is capable of giving it. In cases where the person is incapacitated due to drugs, alcohol, or other reasons, they are unable to give consent.
Under Article 120 of the UCMJ, sexual offenses committed without consent can result in severe penalties, including imprisonment, dishonorable discharge, and other administrative actions. The UCMJ also recognizes that a lack of consent may be due to coercion, threats, or force, and such acts are treated as sexual assault and rape.
In the military, issues of consent are taken very seriously, and all service members are trained to understand the importance of obtaining explicit consent. The military also has a responsibility to ensure that victims of sexual assault and rape are provided with appropriate medical care, counseling, and support.
It is essential to understand that issues of consent and sexual assault are not limited to the military. These issues can occur in any setting, and it is vital that everyone understands the importance of obtaining explicit consent before engaging in sexual activity. Consent is about respect for the other person’s boundaries, and it is essential to ensure that both parties are comfortable and willing before engaging in any sexual activity.
What factors in Article 120 determine whether consent does not exist in a particular case?
Article 120 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) recognizes that certain factors can render a person incapable of giving consent. These factors may include:
Mental incapacitation: A person who is mentally incapacitated or unable to understand the nature of the sexual activity may not be able to give consent.
Physical incapacitation: A person who is physically incapacitated due to drugs, alcohol, or other reasons may be unable to give consent.
Coercion: Consent obtained through force, threat, or coercion is not considered valid consent. If a person is compelled to engage in sexual activity due to fear or intimidation, it is considered non-consensual.
Age: In some cases, age may be a factor in determining whether a person can give consent. For example, a person under the age of 16 in the military is considered incapable of giving legal consent.
Incapacity due to a mental disorder: A person who suffers from a mental disorder that renders them incapable of giving consent cannot legally provide consent.
In all cases, the issue of consent is based on whether the person is capable of providing consent at the time of the sexual activity. If a person is unable to provide consent due to any of the above factors, sexual activity with that person without their consent would be considered a sexual offense under Article 120 of the UCMJ. It is essential to note that the determination of whether consent was given is based on the facts of each case, and all relevant factors must be considered to establish the absence of consent.
Are trainees capable of giving consent to have sex with their military instructors?
Trainees in the military, whether they are enlisted personnel or officers, are in a vulnerable position due to the power dynamic between them and their military instructors or superiors. The military has strict rules and regulations that prohibit sexual relationships between trainees and their instructors, regardless of whether the relationship is consensual or not. This is because the trainee-instructor relationship creates a significant power imbalance that can influence the trainee’s decision-making.
In these situations, the trainee may feel pressured or coerced into engaging in sexual activity with their instructor, even if they do not want to. The trainee may feel that their career prospects or their standing within their unit could be affected if they do not comply with the instructor’s demands. As a result, they may not be capable of giving meaningful consent to the sexual activity.
Moreover, trainees are often young and inexperienced individuals who are in the early stages of their military careers. They may not have a full understanding of the ramifications of engaging in sexual activity with their instructors or superiors, and they may not be fully aware of their rights or the protections afforded to them under military law. The military has recognized this power imbalance and has implemented regulations that prohibit sexual relationships between trainees and their instructors or superiors.
Therefore, if a trainee engages in sexual activity with their instructor or superior, even if it appears to be consensual, it may be considered a violation of military regulations and result in disciplinary action or criminal charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Here are some cases where there was a high degree of difference in the power dynamic between the alleged victim and alleged perpetrators:
United States v. Walker: In this case, Air Force Staff Sergeant Luis A. Walker was convicted of rape, aggravated sexual assault, and other offenses related to his sexual abuse of female trainees at Lackland Air Force Base. Walker claimed that the sexual encounters were consensual, but the victims testified that they did not give their consent. Walker committed suicide in his prison cell two years after his conviction.
United States v. Sinclair: Army Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair was charged with sexual assault, adultery, and other offenses related to his relationship with a subordinate officer. Sinclair ultimately pleaded guilty to lesser charges and was fined and reprimanded.
High-profile cases where consent was a factor
United States v. Burgos: In this case, Army Staff Sergeant Angel Burgos was accused of sexually assaulting a female soldier while she was asleep in her barracks room. Burgos claimed that the sexual encounter was consensual, but the victim testified that she was unconscious and did not give her consent. Burgos was ultimately convicted of rape and other charges and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
United States v. Harmon: In this case, Marine Sergeant Wade Harmon was charged with sexually assaulting a female Marine in a hotel room while on leave. Harmon claimed that the sexual encounter was consensual, but the victim testified that she did not give her consent. Harmon was found guilty of sexual assault and sentenced to eight years in prison.
United States v. Wilkerson: This case involved Air Force Lieutenant Colonel James Wilkerson, who was accused of sexually assaulting a civilian woman while serving at Aviano Air Base in Italy. Wilkerson claimed that the sexual encounter was consensual, but the victim testified that she did not give her consent. Wilkerson was initially found guilty but was later acquitted on appeal.
These cases demonstrate the importance of consent in determining the presence or absence of sexual assault or rape in the military justice system. In each of these cases, the accused claimed that the sexual encounters were consensual, but the victims testified that they did not give their consent. The ultimate determination of whether consent was given depends on the facts of each case and must be established beyond a reasonable doubt.