Fields urges sexual consent law amendment

BY JAMI MURPHY
Former Reporter
11/26/2014 08:27 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Cierra Fields wants the Tribal Council to raise the age from 14 years old to 16 years old in which someone can lawfully consent to sex under CN law.

“The legislation is trying to change the age of consent within Cherokee Nation with its Cherokee citizens from 14 to 16 with plus two, minus two. So if it’s a 16-year-old that sleeps with a 14-year-old it doesn’t go as a sexual offense, but if it’s an 18-year-old who’s sleeping with a 14-year-old then because they’re under 16 and its over two years then it counts as a sexual crime,” Cierra said.

The bulk of the amendment is changing the consent age from 14 to 16.

“I still can’t decide what I want to eat for breakfast and I’m 15. Fourteen-year-olds mentally and physically are not ready for sex,” she said.

Cierra said she’s always been passionate about advocating for those who have been sexually assaulted, having had family members assaulted. She said women she’s known in her life have said they’ve either been sexually assaulted or raped, and it’s always bothered her.

“But whenever I was in Oregon (in June for a conference) I was sexually assaulted, and I wasn’t home. I was in a totally unfamiliar place and with only two or three people that I actually knew out of hundreds,” she said.

Cierra was a guest speaker at a youth conference when she was assaulted in a hotel room. She had developed a migraine so she took medicine and chose to return to her room rather than go to dinner with friends.

“It was probably one of the worse migraines I’ve ever had and they told me to go on up the elevator,” she said.

Cierra’s mother, Terri, said her friends watched Cierra get on the elevator that contained the alleged perpetrator, who was attending the conference.

“We thought you know, she’s in a 5-star hotel in Portland with people she knows,” Terri said. “This incident could have happened here. It could have happened with me in the hotel. I don’t know if I would have done anything differently. The people that she was with, they done everything that I would have done. It was a crime of opportunity, and he took full advantage of the fact that she was sick. He took advantage that she was dizzy from her medication she had just taken.”

Cierra said some sexual offenders probably think ‘well I’m not 18 yet so I can’t go for a sex crime.’ She said the consent law change would give CN officials more leverage in filing first-degree rape charges and make it more difficult to plea down to statutory rape.

Attorney General Todd Hembree said there are circumstances between 14 years of age where consent could be allowed under CN law, depending on the age of the other person involved.

“Our law right now is very common to a lot of other states. They have what is commonly known as a ‘Romeo and Juliet’ provision where as two individuals that are very close in age both being minors – there are instances where the court can find where consent is allowed during sexual intercourse,” he said. “That’s just something that the Tribal Council will have to weigh of whether we take that…distinction away. Because there can be instances where that should be considered.
Here, this amendment is going to be a straight bright line decision, age 16 is consent, no exceptions.”

Currently, the age of blanket consent in Oklahoma is 16. However, a 15-year-old can consent to sex with any person who is 15 to 18 years old. No person 14 or younger can consent to sex, CN Assistant Attorney General Chrissi Ross Nimmo said.

“Currently, in Cherokee Nation, the age of blanket consent is 16, but a 14- or 15-year-old can consent to sex with any person 14 to 18,” she said. “No person 13 or younger can ever consent to sex. The only difference under current Oklahoma law and current Cherokee Nation law is whether a 14-year-old can consent to sex with someone between the ages of 14 and 18.”

Oklahoma’s law states no one under 16 can consent to sex. So the tribe’s possible amendment would mirror what the state deems an age in which one can consent to having sex.

It’s not like other states where parents can consent to their 14-year-old child having sex, Cierra said.

Terri said the law also doesn’t distinguish if one’s significant other is in high school.

“That means that a 30- or 40-year-old can have sex in Cherokee Nation with a 14-year-old with the current law. I consider that a pedophile. So this will at least make the person 16 before they can consent.” she said.

Cierra said one reason she thinks raising the consent age has been “shot down” previously is that families can state that he or she didn’t consent now that the boyfriend or girlfriend just turned 18.

“Oh, her daddy didn’t like me, and because she is over the age or he just turned 18 even though they’ve been dating for say four years, he still gets charged as a sexual offender. So we’re hoping with the plus two (years) and everything that can help regulate that,” she said.

The plus two years and minus two years will attempt to keep people from abusing the age gap, Terri said.

(If an 18-year-old) Is dating a 16 year old, it’s not a sexual offense unless it truly is a case of rape. It’s where a parent just can’t come and press charges for like statutory rape,” she said. “‘They don’t like Johnny and he’s 18.’ We definitely don’t want, you know, young men caught in that situation. Because we’ve all been there. We’ve all dated people where your parents are like ‘oh my god, you are to never see that person again.’ And then they are able to use that law to me has been used to their advantage.

“Yeah, we understand that, that can happen, but we have to start teaching our students that under 16 you are not legally able to make that choice. Your parents cannot make that choice for you,” Terri added.

Both Cierra and Terri hoped the law would state no child under 16 can consent to sex, with or without parental consent, and were waiting on Legislative Act 09-12 to go before the Rules Committee.

Current laws for the Cherokee Nation and Oklahoma
Cherokee Nation:


A 16-year-old can consent to sex with any aged adult.

A 15-year-old can consent to sex with someone who is 15, 16, 17 or 18.

A 14-year-old can consent to sex with someone who is 14, 15, 16, 17 or 18.

A 13-year-old (or younger) can never consent to sex.

Oklahoma:

A 16-year-old can consent to sex with any aged adult.

A 15-year-old can consent to sex with someone who is 15, 16, 17 or 18.

A 14-year-old (or younger) can never consent to sex.

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