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Marital rape loophole in Minnesota law closed with Walz's signature

Jenny Teeson, a survivor of sexual assault from Andover, spoke to reporters on Thursday, May 2, 2019, about her efforts to close a loophole in state law that shields those involved in voluntary relationships from prosecution on charges of sexual misconduct or rape. Gov. Tim Walz signed the bill into law Thursday. Dana Ferguson / Forum News Service1 / 2
Gov. Tim Walz on Thursday, May 2, 2019, signed into law a bill that closes a loophole in state law that shielded those involved in voluntary relationships from prosecution on charges of sexual misconduct or rape. Dana Ferguson / Forum News Service2 / 2

ST. PAUL — Jenny Teeson didn't get justice after her ex-husband raped her. But because of her, other survivors of sexual assault will.

For more than a year, Teeson shared the story of her rape at the Minnesota Capitol to help push a proposal that would eliminate a so-called marital rape exception, a loophole in state law that shields those involved in voluntary relationships from prosecution on charges of sexual misconduct or rape.

When she was going through divorce proceedings, Teeson found videos on her then-husband's hard drive that depicted him raping her while she was unconscious. Her son was lying near her on the bed.

Teeson took her case to law enforcement but she learned that state law included defense against prosecution for those who are involved in voluntary sexual relationships.

The next day, Teeson decided to do something about it. She brought her story to the Legislature and started making the case for changing the law.

The Minnesota House of Representatives and Senate unanimously passed the bill earlier this year. And on Thursday, May 2, Gov. Tim Walz signed into law the bill repealing that loophole. It takes effect immediately.

"This journey has definitely been long and today is a pivotal moment in Minnesota history," Teeson said. "Today, victims, former victims and people who are still in very difficult situations can know that if they are in an unsafe place, in an uncomfortable place and things are happening to them, that if they do go to the authorities, that justice will be served."

Walz, Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan and lawmakers along with Teeson's friends and family celebrated the bill's passage Thursday and attributed the change to Teeson's hard work.

“Jenny shared a deeply personal story time and time again in an effort to make Minnesota a more just place for survivors of sexual assault," Flanagan said. "The amount of courage and bravery it takes cannot be (overstated)."

Teeson's mother and father beamed as their daughter spoke to reporters.

"We're so proud of our daughter," Jenny's father Jerry Teeson said. "She changed the world."

Jenny Teeson said that as a result of her testimony, other states have begun reviews of similar laws on their books. She said she would share her story elsewhere if it helped repeal those laws.

Walz said the exception should have never been written into the state's law and credited Teeson with bringing the issue to the attention of the Legislature.

“No longer will this antiquated and shameful law be on our books,” Walz said. “The concept of preexisting relationship defense should have never been part of our criminal statutes. It is reprehensible and, because of Jenny, it is now going to be repealed.”