• author
    • Debra DeAngelo

    • February 10, 2013 in Columnists

    ‘No’ doesn’t mean ‘no’ if you’re drunk enough

    When it comes to rape, there’s a familiar mantra: “No means no.” However, according to an astounding story from the Feb. 3 Davis Enterprise, “no” has caveats: If the victim is drunk, her protests of “no” may not mean anything, and if her rapist is too drunk to understand what “no” means, he’s innocent.

    According to a story by Lauren Keene, a couple witnessed Thaddeus Jay Sonne, 21, of Davis, having sex with a woman near the Amtrak station and called the police. Officers arrived and saw the woman “crying, kicking her legs and saying ‘no, no, stop’ as they confronted the pair” and arrested Sonne. The story notes “… the woman’s blood-alcohol content was 0.23 — nearly three times the legal limit of 0.08 — while Sonne’s registered at 0.17.”

    The two were acquainted, and had been out bar-hopping with a group of friends. Were they flirting? Did the woman indicate she was interested and then change her mind at the last minute? Did Sonne attempt to loosen her up with a few fluffy high-octane drinks? Who knows. And who cares, really, because in the end, “no means no.” Right?


    In court, an officer played an audio recording of Sonne claiming he believed the sex was consensual. He acknowledged that he heard the woman say “No,” but said, “Sometimes it’s more of a dare than an actual request. If she wanted me to stop, she could have made me stop.”

    Right. A drunk woman pinned beneath a larger, stronger man can always overpower him, right? Just like her uterus has special magic to reject an egg that was fertilized during a rape. Mr. Sonne has a great future in the Republican party.

    And… what suspect doesn’t offer a pathetic, desperate excuse upon arrest to try and avoid prosecution? Tell us, police officers, do the suspects reach for those handcuffs and joyfully jump into the back seat, or do they spout their innocence even as you’re fingerprinting them at the county jail?

    Yolo County Deputy District Attorney Amanda Zambor prosecuted the case, and rightly responded to Sonne’s inane explanation that “No means no. It’s not vague. It’s not confusing. The defendant is guilty of rape because (the woman) told him no.” Sonne’s attorney, Dan Hutchinson, argued that his client’s level of intoxication “may have prevented him from comprehending the word ‘no’ until officers had approached the pair.”

    Wow, what an airtight alibi! Hey all you wannabe rapists out there: Just get really drunk before you assault your next victim! If you’re too smashed to understand that “no means no” — particularly when accompanied by crying and kicking, you’re home free, pal! Go forth and rape with confidence! And in case you’re caught, just keep Mr. Hutchinson’s phone number handy. He’ll get you off the hook.

    What a precedent! If you’re too drunk to understand “no,” could you also be too drunk to understand that drinking and driving is wrong, and therefore innocent after plowing over some kids walking to school? Or too drunk to understand that the gun goes “bang” when you pull the trigger and will send a bullet through someone’s forehead? Absolutely! Innocent as a newborn kitten! Whatever laws you want to break, no problem! Just get drunk first! And don’t forget to tell your pals Jack Daniels and Johnnie Walker thanks!

    Keene’s story concedes that the victim later said she wasn’t raped, but she awhialso expressed “uncertainty” about pressing charges. Hmmm. She said she wasn’t raped… but was also uncertain? Sexual assault counselors, please weigh in. Please tell the audience how frequently a rape victim is hesitant or even refuses to press charges because she doesn’t want to face the ordeal of a trial, and just wants to move on. Please enlighten us about a woman’s confused state of mind after being raped by someone she thought was a friend… someone with whom both have friends in common, who might apply great pressure not to press charges. Inform us about how often a rape victim’s fear, revulsion and shame are greater than her desire for justice.

    Morever, what if the woman was so drunk that she passed out and was raped while lying there unconscious. Or worse yet, murdered afterwards. Do you mean to tell me that unless the victim can verify it, no rape happened? Try. Go ahead and try. Pack a lunch. We’ll be arguing for awhile.

    Apparently the jury ignored these considerations, and acquitted Sonne after less than a day of deliberations, and he was freed immediately. Hutchinson wasted no time in crowing about his victory: “I was happy to see Mr. Sonne walk out of the courtroom a free man — vindicated by a jury from his community — and into the arms of those who care about him and always believed his innocence.”

    What a travesty of justice. For the victim, and those yet to be victimized. Because there could be more. Sonne knows the magic “free pass” for worry-free rape: Just get so hammered that you don’t know what “no” means, pick out a tipsy young filly and take a walk near the train tracks. Party time, Dude! If you’re both drunk enough, “No” is just a dare!

    As for those “loving arms” that received Mr. Sonne — if you truly love him, teach him what his attorney and the jury who endorsed his behavior did not: “No,” in fact means “no.” “No” is a complete sentence. It is not a dare. It doesn’t mean “Try harder.” It means STOP. Besides teaching him a word that even most dogs understand, enlighten Mr. Sonne about body language: A kicking, crying woman who is struggling to escape is NOT interested in having sex with you. There was no confusion that night by the train tracks. That woman’s message was crystal clear: She did not want your penis inside her, and you jammed it in there anyway. And you got away with it.





    • No should mean no. This disgusts me. Also, why the fuck were they outside by the Amtrak station fucking? There should be a law against that as well oh wait there is. I guess being drunk excuses you from everything these days.

    • In Davis, the Amtrack station is wide open and next to many of the downtown bars. It has lots of secluded bushes and walkways. Anyone can walk there at any time.

        • J.C. Pollard

        • February 10, 2013 at 11:13 am
        • Reply

        They weren’t secluded. Apparently Officer Bestpich has come across couple having sex in public TEN times in her two years in Davis.

      • J.C. Pollard

      • February 10, 2013 at 11:09 am
      • Reply

      Alternate on that jury here. Outrage, I’m sure, makes writing more fun, and it definitely makes for better reading, but it is not how our courts work. Personally I wanted to find the defense attorney guilty of giving me the creeps and of invading the Facebook accounts of the victim AND witness. There was so much contradictory evidence. The victim herself didn’t know what happened, and there was video tape evidence that she lead him to the train station. The law is a reasonable-doubt standard, not an I-have-a feeling-he’s-guilty-and-would-prefer-he-was-not-on-the-street standard. I was so glad I did not have to vote on the case, because no matter how often Ms. Zamor repeated “no means no”, that is not evidence. I did not want to vote not guilty, but the prosecution was not able to prove it’s case to a reasonably guilty standard.

      • I agree, that apparently the prosecution did not do a good enough job of introducing evidence from an expert witness from the Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Center about the state of mind of a woman who has been raped by an acquaintance. She additionally did not do a good enough job of proving what took place. If the victim was so drunk that she didn’t know what happened, essentially unconscious, it is still illegal to have sex with an unconscious person against his/her will. All in all, you have a point. It may be not so much that the defense attorney was brilliant but that the prosecutor was not tenacious and creative enough.

          • J.C. Pollard

          • February 10, 2013 at 6:12 pm

          Ms. Rickman-Patrick was, to me, impressive, but she was only introduced to present physical evidence. No psychological evidence was introduced at all. Mr Hutchinson brought in an “expert” who seemed to dismiss Ms. Rickman-Patrick, FNP, as “just a nurse” and he knew better despite never examining the patient because he had an MD, what a douche, and suggesting that all marks could be attributed to consensual sex.

    • And… a follow-up on my blog:

      • Siri Halama

      • February 12, 2013 at 7:15 pm
      • Reply

      This I don’t often tell. This is hard and it is humiliating although I have long allowed the shame to return to those who deserve it. I was 16, in despair from a bad break-up. I was wandering around town late at night, all alone, and stumbled across the back patio of a fraternity where three young men were smoking pot and invited me to smoke some with them.

      They invited me to smoke more with them upstairs and this is when young + brokenhearted = profoundly foolish. I went. And when one suggested that one man wasn’t enough to entirely please a woman and indicated his buddies, my broken heart added what-the-hell to the entire equation. I said yes. To that. To them. Specifically. And no, I was never so stoned that I didn’t get what I was doing.

      It was mostly a blur–I was at least *that* stoned–but suddenly there was a body I didn’t recognize. And another body. And another. I could hear rapping on doors and excited murmurs and then there was another body. How the fuck many were there? They weren’t hurting me. Most of the new young men had no clue that I had not been consulted. They weren’t rough and they weren’t mean, but they weren’t what I had agreed to.

      Confusion gave way to fear. What the hell? Was this going to end? And then what? My mind raced–how was I to get out of this? Would they hurt me when they were done with me? I conceived a plan and put it into action, replaying a scene of a young woman on too much acid to know what she was doing–and now the trip was going bad. The young man of the moment looked horrified. He and two friends–different ones than the original ones–helped me get dressed, wrapped me in a blanket and took me to the street where I lived, apologizing the whole time.

      For years, all I knew was that I was furious but I didn’t feel I had the right to be. I had said yes. Then an older friend, to whom I had confided, told me “You were raped.” “But I said yes.” “Not to all of them,” she said quite firmly. And I realized it was true. It became true when the original agreement changed. It became true when I became the masturbation receptacle for an entire fraternity of young men.

      Do I hate the ones who came later? No. I don’t. They had honestly believed I was sober and acquiescent. They were gentle and concerned and could not stop apologizing. I hope they had fine lives and did much good with them. Do I hate the one young man who knew what he was setting me up for? Oh yes. Yes, I do.

      Rape can come in many forms, and sometimes don’t even start out that way. Sometimes they are one’s own poor judgment which should not have been license for what they did. Despite the imperfect evidence in the trial, the fact remains that this woman was protesting. She was saying no. No. Means. No. Even if she changed her mind. Even if he was drunk and she was drunker.

      I am not posting my name. Not because I am ashamed, but because I’d as soon keep my name out of this story. I am known for other things that I like much better. But the story is true…

      • Wow.

        This took a lot of courage to reveal what happened to you. And it shows that there is a lot of gray area and confusion, and inner turmoil… and many different colors of rape. But in the end… it is all a violation. It is all something that was done to your body, as you said, as if it’s merely a masturbation receptacle. The fact that you are able to talk about it so articulately is a key that you are moving toward healing. It’s the most difficult thing in the world to face your pain, acknowledge it and keep living anyway. Keep smiling ANYWAY.

        Thank you for responding, and I wish you all the best in continuing on the path to healing and recovery.

    • That was a superb article, Debra. I can’t help but think about how the ‘boy’s club’ is at work here, defending the good ole boys and their bull crap.

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