By Darcy Keenan, The Miami Student

As college students, we hear about rape and sexual assault constantly. We all know the definition: any type of sexual penetration by any body parts or foreign objects, without the consent of the victim. And then we all know what statutory rape is: someone over the age of consent (typically 18) having sex with a minor. Regardless of what they say, a minor cannot give consent.

That being said, is it statutory rape if the victim is physically over the age of consent but not mentally? If the victim has some sort of mental disabilities and their brain has not developed past a certain age, can they give consent?

Forrest Gump had an IQ of 75, which is borderline Intellectual Disability (typically, an IQ of 70 is  needed to be diagnosed with this).  However, twice in the movie Jenny had sexual contact with him. The first time, she placed his hand on her breast. He was obviously uncomfortable as soon as she took off her dress and his level of discomfort only grew as she took off her bra and then made him touch her.

Though he didn’t say no, I don’t think that she had his consent. He was uncomfortable, and it is common for victims of assault to be silent, respond sexually and continue a relationship with their attacker.

Much later on in the movie, Jenny comes back again and then has sex with him. As she climbs into his bed, Forest protests — it’s wrong. However, when she gets on top of him, his protests stop. 

Maybe this could be considered consent? He did not say no, he was not as uncomfortable this time. However, given his mental state, I do not think he was capable of giving consent. 

My mother and I guessed that mentally he was no older than eight or nine years old. Nine-year-olds are not capable of giving consent, regardless of what they say. In Alabama, the age of consent is 16, and there is no way anyone could reasonably argue that Forrest had the mental development of a 16 year old.  That being said, is it possible for Forrest to give consent?

I posted a poll on my Twitter and asked. 43 people voted on it, and of those 43, 12 think that Forrest is unable to give consent, 18 think that he is and 13 are unsure (and one of the people who told me they voted yes, he can give consent, thought about it more and then were not so sure). If you are unsure if something is rape, chances are, it is. At the very least you could assume that it was sexual assault.

Obviously, Forrest Gump is not a true story. So in the end, it doesn’t really matter if he was raped or not, but it is still important to think about. It is a good way to discuss the effects of mental development and consent without using a real person as your example.

keenandm@miamioh.edu

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