I do care.
I have and will continue to support women who fight against misogyny and sexual harassment. I support sexual assault survivors. I support women fighting for reform of the criminal justice system. I support a federal law that provides a universal definition of sexual assault and consent, so that it does not vary state to state, but clarifies what’s right and wrong. I also support the abolishment of child marriages in this country that are surprisingly too common, and make an otherwise criminal act of sex, legal. I support stronger outreach to teenagers to better educate them on the consequences of drinking and consent. It’s no surprise that millions of teens have consumed alcohol and had sex.
All these issues are a clear reality of problems needing to be solved by policymakers.
In 2007, while attending different high schools, a 16-year-old female and my 17-year-old self, had a consensual sexual encounter after talking, flirting, and drinking at her classmate’s home.
I was invited by her classmate, our mutual friend at the time, to join her and the friend at his house. I joined them by the pool, not knowing how much they drank before I got there. We began drinking, the female and I began flirting, she came to me and laid down next to me. After some time talking and laughing among us three, she and I began holding hands and became more physical. She asked me to take her to the bathroom in the house. She and I both walked into the house. At no point did she need assistance walking or showed any signs of abnormality. I showed her a bathroom. She used the bathroom privately for a normal period of time with no evidence of vomiting. I was waiting for her outside of the bathroom, she came towards me. She told the mutual friend to turn off the lights. After turning off the lights, he left the room. We had sex. That night was the first and last time I met her. I had no knowledge of the significant issues related to her past, her relationship status, her family situation, and her social situation at her small religious school.
Five months later, she accused me of sexual assault during a school counseling session for her parents’ divorce. Following standard reporting requirements, the counselor called the Pima County Sheriff’s Department, to investigate the allegation.
The Sheriff’s report includes one person interviewed making an allegation, and another person interviewed testifying that the allegation was false. I was never interviewed by the investigating officer. I was never given an opportunity to counter the allegation. The authorities filed a report and stopped the investigation.
The fact that the police did not even question the primary suspect, cannot be overlooked or taken lightly. Through the investigation of speaking with the counselor, hearing the person’s accusation, and gathering countering statements from the witness, the police determined to end the investigation. I cannot speak to what the investigators’ perceptions were during their interactions, but it should be considered when assessing their decision not to even question the suspect. The accuser also stated she “did not want anything to happen to Yahya” and would not press charges. Without the cooperation of the accuser, the State is very unlikely to press charges even though they have the unilateral ability to do so when they have “probable cause”, meaning a reasonable belief that a crime took place. They decided not to, either because the accuser was unwilling to cooperate or due to other reasons from their investigation.
The fact that a person did not want to press charges is commonplace and rings of the similar plight for many women. This is an unfortunate reality of our criminal justice system. It’s a long process, that publicizes a deeply personal event, that forces victims to relive the trauma, endure a brutal cross-examination by the defense counsel, and possible appeals. The fact that many women who have been sexually assaulted feel unwilling to go through the process, has left the large part of our country untrusting of the system and heightened levels of belief for an allegation. The system should be fixed to empower women to follow through with the process, or at least help the State in pursuing justice in a less traumatic way, without upending the fundamental constitutional rights of the accused. Because of this very imperfection with our current system, I've not been allowed justice, due process, the ability to state my case, or face my accuser. I am left feeling guilty until proven innocent.
Discovering the Report
I discovered the report and its content eight years later, after passing the California bar exam and going through the State’s process for determining my moral character and fitness. While the CA Bar did not give merit to the allegation and granted me a license to practice law, many in our community do give it merit.
As I did the first time reading the report, I feel nauseous and in disbelief rereading it. But now knowing all the significant challenges and struggles in her life, I cannot help but empathize. To the best of my knowledge, she is living happily with a bright future.
But a part of me also feels very defensive, I must stand up for myself, I must vocalize my account of that evening, and I must counter the statements she made to the officer. I will never have an opportunity to fully defend myself.
If This Were Court
While I have been told that I’m not being tried in a court of law, I nevertheless need to address the legal issues since some people have been accusing me of sexual assault based on consent laws and intoxication under A.R.S. 13-1401(5).
While I have previously stated my regret for drinking and having sex as a teenager, I cannot allow those in the public to interpret that as an admission of breaking the law. So I must address the actual law which some people have misinterpreted against me.
It is difficult to defend myself without maligning or appearing to malign someone who is not here to represent themselves. That said, I can still adequately defend myself without getting into too much detail.
Age of Consent:
A defense to sexual assault as stated in A.R.S. 13-1407(F) reads “If the victim is fifteen, sixteen or seventeen years of age, the defendant is under nineteen years of age or attending high school and is no more than twenty-four months older than the victim and the conduct is consensual.”
The difference in age can categorically void consent. So unlike an old adult having sex with a young teenager, a 16-year-old can have consensual sex with a 17-year-old.
But to this point, an old adult can have consensual sex with a young teenager if they are married. In this country, 25 states (including Arizona) have no minimum age requirement for child marriages. Meaning that children can be married with parental consent as early as 13. In just the last 17 years, over 207,000 child marriages occurred, some being as young as ten years old.
Use of force:
It’s universally unacceptable for anyone to use force against another person. A.R.S. 13-1401(5)(a) states there is no consent to sex if the victim is coerced by the immediate use or threatened use of force.
In the report, she stated that she was asserting “no” repeatedly and crying, before blacking out. I have to strongly disagree and further confirm the witness’s refusal of her accusation. While awkward to say, I know he could hear us from outside the bedroom.
I would never force myself upon another person, as a teenager, nor now. That’s just impossible for me to even imagine myself doing.
Lack of consent – Intoxication:
Some people refer to the Arizona consent laws in A.R.S. 13-1401(5)(b) regarding the consumption of alcohol as an argument for her inability to consent.
For those that don’t know, the law was actually intended to protect those who were passed out then taken advantage of. The law does also protect those not unconscious but too impaired to consent. It reads “the victim is coerced by reason of …alcohol; AND that impairment/condition is known or should have reasonably been known to the person accused of the crime.”
The current case law on lack of ability to consent due to intoxication is starkly different than what happened in my situation. In State of Arizona v. E. J. Causbie (2016), the woman was refusing any advances by the man. She clearly stated she was not interested; she was extremely drunk, and was at the point of unconsciousness prior to the sex act.
But in my case where the evidence would have been arguably demonstrated in a court of law: (1) two minors, (2) with the accuser being accustomed to drinking alcohol, (3) who demonstrated a sexual attraction to the accused over the course of an evening, (4) all the while consciously performing myriad motor functions, and (5) having coherent conversations with the accused and with another, before engaging in a sex act, could not be interpreted as intoxication.
While both the witness and the accuser admitted to consumption of alcohol, that does not mean intoxication can be assumed. For one, the mixed drinks we consumed were a mixture of alcohol and soda, it’s not as precise as the number of beers one consumes, so it could be more, but also could be less. Second, I am not aware of how much the accuser drank that night because I arrived much later and together we did not drink nearly as many cups as the report alleges. Third, I had every reason to believe she was able to consent, based on our verbal interactions, her ability to walk, not vomiting when in the bathroom, and during our sexual encounter.
For what it’s worth to those still willing to reason, this is my honest account. Had I been investigated, I would have been as consistent then as I am now.
An Attempt to Clear my Name
Many in the media and online have attempted to frame my request of the court to expunge this allegation as a disingenuous attempt to hide my past. I can understand the principle of accountability for those seeking elected office. But is it so unreasonable for one seeking public office, not to try to clear their name of a false allegation?
I’m left with a police report of this heinous allegation, against my 17-year-old self. This will remain on my record forever, because all allegations made against an individual permanently remain on their record.
The July 15th In-Person Statement
Firstly, for those in the community and in the media who keep referring to that day as a Press Conference with Q&A, I kindly refer you to my Campaign Manager’s tweet on July 14, 2018 at 3:04 PM:
“Yahya Yuksel will make an in-person statement, open to public and media.
Sunday, July 15, 2018
3776 N. 1st Ave. Tucson, AZ 85719”
While it was never advertised as a press conference with a Q&A, I partly regret not having done so. The night before the event, I had a very long and thought out statement, and wanted to answer any and all questions of the public and press. I truly felt that was the honest and most appropriate plan of action. But a couple advisors strongly disagreed with my plan, citing the amount of hostility on social media, and the preconceived assertions made by some people intending to come.
Even up to the minute before I made the announcement, we agreed to shorten my statement to a few sentences. After making my statement, I second-guessed my decision to leave, hesitating by the door for a moment, but decided to stick to the plan. It was not until I saw several women running after my car that I realized I had to stop and listen to them. They were in deep anguish, crying, short of breath, demanding I come back and answer questions. I felt terrible for the pain I unintentionally caused these individuals.
I decided to trust my intuition and follow them back to the office. However, when I got there, chaos had already ensued. My father was yelling at a man’s camera, my mother was in tears, my supporters were being confronted by attendees, my teenage volunteers were witnessing a traumatizing experience, and some stood in the far back grieving and comforting each other in a silence. It was the worst experience, to feel like the one causing all this pain, all this anger. I shut down and it was hard to think. After answering just a few questions, campaign manager and I left, broken and traumatized, leaving behind my family, supporters, and young volunteers to defend their candidate who was outnumbered by a group of people in agony and resentment.
I deeply regret not being more prepared for such a moment, not trusting myself to do what I felt right. I regret not addressing the allegation months before. My first moment to address the community fell short of conveying my sincerity and empathy. It fell short of an understanding for the people present. It fell short of the community’s suffering from sexual assault. It fell short of someone seeking to represent our home district. By not addressing all the questions posed to me, I did the very thing many in our community dislike about our current sitting Congressperson. No one in Congress should refuse the public’s questions. I regret that. My silence has caused many assumptions and speculations to turn from rumors to beliefs. As anyone should, I’ve learned from this mistake.
I was prepared for hostility on any of my policies, ready to confront any objections with zealous debate. But to address the details of a deeply personal event from 11 years ago as a teenager, was something I was completely unprepared to handle with that specific group of individuals who have had significant pain with their past.
Over these past three weeks, while many people have only heard “radio silence”, I’ve met with members of the community, professional counselors, psychologists, victim resource groups, attorneys, community leaders, and heard the countless personal stories of women who have been victims of assault. My most impactful and mutually beneficial meetings were with those most critical of my responses over the past few weeks. It’s truly a sad reality in this country that so many people can suffer so much without having true justice and healing. We need to change this. Not just for our generation, but for our sons and daughters.
Today, I apologize to my family and friends for enduring through these tough times. I apologize to the community for my inability to properly address this serious concern with the respect, empathy, and strength that is required. All I can say is that it is a process of introspection, reflection, and communication with the community that will bring forth a positive result.