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Statutory Rape: Not Just a Crime against Minors

Ryan Coventon - Thursday, July 19, 2018

When most people hear the term "statutory rape," the common name for second degree rape in Oklahoma, they typically assume it involves a sexual relationship between an adult aged 18 or older and a minor who is just a little too young to provide legal consent. However, under Oklahoma law, minors are not the only ones that are legally unable to consent to sexual activity, and for this reason, under certain circumstances, a person can be charged with rape for sexual involvement with a willing adult partner.

The Oklahoma statutes in 21 O.S. § 1111 define rape as an act of sexual intercourse or penetration occurring under one or more of 10 circumstances (11 when considering spousal rape, which, by law, is only accomplished through use or threat of force or violence).

Six of these circumstances are further classified as first degree rape in § 1114, and these are actions which are most commonly associated with the term "rape": child rape (perpetrated against a minor under the age of 14), rape of a mentally disabled or mentally ill person unable to provide legal consent, rape of a person who has been drugged as a means of forcing the person to submit, rape of an unconscious person, or forcible rape.

All other acts of rape are classified as second degree rape, which is commonly called statutory rape. These acts involve sexual intercourse or penetration of someone who may be of age to provide legal consent, but are unable to do so due to certain circumstances. 

Frequently, we think of age as being the primary determiner of statutory rape. The age of consent in Oklahoma is 16; while a person aged 14 or 15 may verbally consent to sexual intercourse with a person over the age of 18, that apparent consent is not lawful. 

The other determiner of second degree rape is custodial or supervisory status. We understand this applies to student/teacher relationships, but many people do not realize the law prohibits a sexual relationship between a student up to 19 years of age and any employee aged 18 or older in the same school district.

It also applies to those in DHS custody and DHS employees and inmates and corrections employees. The employee does not have to be a supervisor of that inmate--all employees and contractors (prison nurses for example) are prohibited from sexual contact with inmates.

It is under this law that a prison chaplain has been charged with rape by instrumentation for his involvement with an inmate at the Kate Barnard Community Corrections Center in Oklahoma City. An inmate at the facility said she and the chaplain, Don Lee Dickerson, 57, of Yukon, had intimate and inappropriate contact several times in his office between January and July of this year. Dickerson reportedly admitted to the allegations and was arrested on a complaint of rape by instrumentation. The chaplain resigned his position amid the investigation. He is out of jail on $25,000 bond.

If convicted, he faces one to 15 years in prison and sex offender registration upon release.

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