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Lawmakers want to add rape to TN justifications for use of deadly force

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Posted at 12:14 PM, Oct 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-17 21:09:23-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Right now in Tennessee, rape is not specifically mentioned in the state code as a justification for use of deadly force.

Sound shocking? It was to lawmakers in a summer study Monday afternoon were also shocked to learn the code didn't specifically mention rape.

Instead, for someone to prove deadly force was necessary they need to prove a fear of death or serious bodily injury.

The state's definition of seriously bodily does not explicitly include rape.

Franklin state representative Brandon Ogles raised the question in the study session. Upon learning the answer, he said he would bring a bill to rectify the problem.

Thursday morning, he said he had gained support from across the legislature, but that specific language had not been written for the bill.

"You have to articulate, you have to show injury," said Rep. Ogles. "You have to have that victim testify that they were in fear of something more aggressive happening when, in fact, the act of rape is very aggressive, it's very invasive and it leaves scars that last a life time."

According to counselors with Sexual Assault Center in Nashville, victims of rape should not be held responsible for their fight or flight response to being attacked.

"When we perceive threat.... the brain doesn't have access to the part of it that thinks through things," said Michael Samis, Clinical Therapist for SAC. "[It can't say], 'Oh, this is safe or this is not safe.' It's in this alarm mode that some people know as fight, flight or freeze. When threat is perceived, there isn't choice other than those three things."