Man Acquitted of Sexual Assault Because He Had 'Sexomnia'

Apparently it wasn't rape-rape. A Swedish man who had been convicted of sexually assaulting a woman had the charges overturned after experts claimed that he was asleep during the attack, and therefore could not be held responsible.

According to a translated copy of a the Sundsvall appeals court ruling, Mikael Halvarsson suffers from "sexomnia," a condition that occurs when a person engages in "unintentional sexual behaviors during sleep."

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The alleged assault occurred on April 2, 2014, when Halvarsson was sharing a bed with a female companion, but they had separate blankets. The woman called the police the next morning, and when they arrived, they found him still sleeping.

According to a previous girlfriend, Halvarsson once tried to have sex with her in his sleep, and when she stopped him, he acted confused and asked what happened. His mother also confirmed that he's suffered from disturbing sleep patterns in the past.

Sleep expert Dr. Kingman Strohl (who has no connection with the case) is the director of research at the Sleep Center at Case Medical Center in Cleveland. He says that while very rare, sexomnia is an "actual medical diagnosis that includes unintentional sexual behaviors during sleep."

He says that more common parasomnia activities include sleepwalking or sleep talking, but that sleep sexual advances can occur. "Usually people are very scared and also quite confused as to what's going on," Strohl said.

He said experts have to be careful when people blame sleeping disorders when crimes are committed, and that they "look for signs" that the behavior has "gone on before and occurs in context of sleep walking and sleep talking."

"You want to know how people react to it. You want to know what the people look like and want to know how each partner reacts to it," said Strohl of diagnosing a sexomnia incident. "You don't want to encourage unwanted sexual advances."

OK, I'll buy that there are people who suffer from sexomnia, but shouldn't there be some sort of requirement that they warn their partners about it if they want to use it as an excuse to get a rape conviction overturned? Because a sexual assault is a sexual assault no matter if the attacker knows they're doing it or not. The victim is aware it's happening, and it's equally traumatic for them whether it's a deliberate assault or not.

Do you think sexomnia is a valid excuse for overturning a rape conviction?

 

Image via emdot/Flickr

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