Mike Bocchino, a Republican state legislator in Connecticut, is scrambling to explain what he meant by a remark made during debate over a bill aimed at curbing sexual assault on college campuses, when he appeared to say that witnessing a rape was like having a party.
The bill that was up for debate Tuesday in the Connecticut legislature’s Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee would require “affirmative consent” in sexual encounters taking place among college students on campus.
In other words, any parties involved in the encounter would be required to verbalize consent by saying “yes” to any specific sexual activities.
“No question that sexual assault is a horrific thing. No question that date rape things that happen on college campuses are disgusting,” Bocchino said during the legislative hearing. “Because at the end of the day, there are no witnesses…or at least if there are, it’s a really great party.”
Bocchino is far from the first Republican legislator to make bizarre comments that appear insensitive to rape victims and the issue of rape in general.
In the best-known comment, Missouri Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin argued in 2012 that “legitimate” rape cannot lead to pregnancy, saying, “[I]f it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
A New Hampshire state representative, Lawrence Lockman, came up with perhaps the most over-the-top example, when he described rape as “pursuit of sexual freedom” and implied that rape should be legal.
Bocchino’s remark drew an immediate response from the state Democratic Party, which issued a statement admonishing the Republican lawmaker.
“Campus sexual assault is not a joke. It affects both genders, but up to one in five female students are victims. It’s a serious problem, and I hope Rep. Bocchino publicly apologize for his distasteful and offensive comment,” the statement said.
But Bocchino, while offering an apology, blamed his political opponents for “twisting” his remark.
“In a sarcastic remark, I referenced a situation where more than two people might be present at an intimate encounter where the point of consent was reached as ‘some kind of party,'” Bocchino said. “To twist my comments and present them in such a way is disturbing. In no way was I trying to make light of any of this and I am sorry that some may have taken my comments that way.”
Mike Bocchino added that, in fact, he voted in favor of the “affirmative consent” bill.
[Image: Mike Bocchino Facebook via New York Daily News]