[Ed. Note: Readers, please welcome to HayLadies! our newest contributor Morgan Hopkins. Morgan relocated to the Houston area a year ago and is getting her Masters in Psychology and Women's Studies. She recently co-organized SlutWalk Houston and volunteers for NARAL TX and the Lilith Fund. She loves to dance and is a Jack Daniels enthusiast (sometimes simultaneously).]
In the slew of recent sexual assault cases in Texas (see: Silsbee cheerleader case and the gang rape of an 11-year-old in Cleveland), another in Abilene has attracted media attention as it heads to court. Elgin Harness, an 18-year-old Cooper High School student, and Santiago Navejos, 17, are being charged for allegedly raping a 16-year-old at a party on March 18. They were arrested on March 28, 2011, released on a $40,000 bond, and have since appeared in court on July 11.
In an all too familiar he-said she-said rhetoric, Harness says the young girl is lying; he claims they had sex but that the girl knew what was going on. He also points out in an interview with KTAB that he had been involved sexually with the young girl before and after the alleged assault; his mother, Marlette Harness, corroborated this in an interview with the Reporter News.
Harness describes in detail in this interview that he had sex with the young girl and that she “didn’t say no, she didn’t deny it, she just let it happen.” When he got up to go to the bathroom, Navejos had sex with her. He claims the young girl may not have known that she was having sex with someone else and was visibly upset after it happened. He describes driving the young girl home and says she seemed like “she couldn’t believe that it had happened to her.”
Sound like a reaction to consensual sex? Not quite.
Much of the media coverage focuses on the girl’s alcohol consumption and Harness’ preexisting sexual relationship. She told the police she was drunk to the point of going in and out of consciousness but Harness says this was not the case. Focusing on details about the alleged victim in mainstream media is not a new tactic (the New York Times felt the heat for their coverage of the Cleveland case).
Let this developing case be another lesson on the full spectrum of consent. The absence of “no” does not equal consent. Having sex with one partner does not equal consent to having sex with another. Widespread education about the full definition of consent is crucial to decreasing sexual assault and the victim-blaming framing of these cases.
Stay tuned to see how this case, and the media coverage of it, unravels.