The Supreme Court of Connecticut ruled that the conviction of Richard Fourtin Jr was to be overturned stating the state had provided no evidence that his victim could not communicate her refusal to have sex with the defendant. The woman, who is not identified, has cerebral palsy and the intellectual capacity of a three year old. Senior Assistant Public Defender Nicole Donzello argued that the woman could have bitten, scratched, screaming or gesturing her refusal to have sex with the twenty-eight year old.
The woman cannot verbally communicate at all. The court ruled that the victim was not physically helpless under the statutes governing rape which define physical helplessness as being “unconscious or for any other reason is physically unable to communicate unwillingness to an act.”
The justices stated in their opinion that “(W)e, like the Appellate Court, ‘are not persuaded that the state produced any credible evidence that the [victim] was either unconscious or so uncommunicative that she was physically incapable of manifesting to the defendant her lack of consent to sexual intercourse at the time of the alleged sexual assault.”
State Representative Gerald Ford III stated that he will work to clarify the state’s law. Anna Doroghazi, director of public policy at Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services, stated that“We are incredibly disappointed with the State Supreme Court’s decision in the Fourtin case. The court’s interpretation of what it means to be ‘physically helpless’ jeopardizes the safety of people with disabilities.”
Doroghazi also stated “By implying that the victim in this case should have bitten or kicked her assailant, this ruling effectively holds people with disabilities to a higher standard than the rest of the population when it comes to proving lack of consent in sexual assault cases. Failing to bite an assailant is not the same thing as consenting to sexual activity.”
James McGaughey of the Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities stated “People with disabilities are much more likely to be sexually assaulted than people who do not have disabilities. Our justice system should provide them with protection, not require them to resist their attackers.”