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John Crist sinned, but did he also commit sexual assault?

John Crist sinned, but did he also commit sexual assault?

Christian comedian John Crist | Screenshot: YouTube/johnbcrist

A few weeks ago, Charisma Magazine published a powerful expose of comedian John Crist chronicling his long history of exploiting women for his sexual gratification. Near the end of the article, author Taylor Berglund writes, “Though the allegations against Crist are not criminal, we believe they are newsworthy….” Unfortunately, Mr. Berglund provides no explanation for why he finds these allegations to be not criminal. And there is noteworthy evidence in the article to the contrary.

The article highlights the experience of one young woman, “Kate,” who described interviewing Mr. Crist with her boyfriend present. As she left, Crist asked for her phone number. He contacted her soon after and invited her to come over. Thinking the interaction would be platonic and would exemplify a mentoring relationship, she notified her boyfriend and went to meet Crist.

The article then states that Crist “gave her a water bottle full of raspberry vodka …” though, importantly, it is not clear from the article whether Kate was aware of the contents of the bottle at the time. They then went rollerblading together along the boardwalk in Venice (California). After Kate had consumed more than half the bottle, she agreed to go swimming with Crist:

“Once there, she says Crist grabbed her and tried to kiss her, and in her drunken state, she struggled to push him off. He told her in crude terms how much he wanted to have sex with her and continued to pursue her. In response, she tried to explain that she had a boyfriend and only desired a mentoring relationship with Crist, not a sexual one. Eventually, he relented.”

In this exchange, we read that Crist forcibly grabbed Kate with sexual intent at which point, “she struggled to push him off.” Despite the fact that Kate had made clear that she did not consent, he nonetheless “continued to pursue her.”

Following this exchange, the two returned to Crist’s apartment so that Kate could retrieve her personal things: “Once there, Crist again grabbed her, crudely propositioned her for sex and begged her to stay.” In other words, for the third time Crist put his hands on Kate with sexual intent despite the fact that she had strongly expressed her nonconsent to his sexual advances.

The experience was extremely traumatic for Kate. As we then read, “The ordeal left Kate emotionally devastated and still—two years later—spiritually shaken. She says she struggles with ‘what it means to be Christian after being so disgustingly let down by a role model I considered a man of God.'”

Crist’s actions were clearly immoral, but were they illegal? Let’s consider, as an example, The California Penal Code Section 243.4 (a) which addresses sexual battery:

“any person who touches an intimate part of another person while that person is unlawfully restrained by the accused or an accomplice, and if the touching is against the will of the person touched and is for the purpose of sexual arousal, sexual gratification, or sexual abuse, is guilty of sexual battery.” (Source; My thanks to Dana Harper for pointing me to this section of the Code.)

As we have seen, according to the excerpts from Kate’s interview, Mr. Crist continued to physically touch her with sexual intent even after she had asked him to stop. The experience was so intense that Kate remains traumatized two years later. Further, as the Charisma article ominously observes, “Kate’s story is not an isolated incident.”

Did Mr. Crist commit sexual battery in this case? Might his actions constitute other violations of the California Penal Code? Has he violated the laws in other jurisdictions based on a similar pattern of behavior?

At this point, we do not know. But it seems to me that at the very least the available evidence does not support Mr. Berglund’s assessment that Mr. Crist’s actions were not criminal. Sin is serious business, but so is the violation of the law. And if Mr. Crist has violated the law, he must be held accountable. To that end, my hope is that his victims will have the courage to come forward and seek legal counsel. Healing can only begin once the nature of the crime has been identified.

Dr. Randal Rauser is Professor of Historical Theology at Taylor Seminary in Edmonton, Alberta, where he has taught since 2003. He blogs at randalrauser.com and lectures widely on issues of theology, Christian worldview, and apologetics. Randal is the author of many books including his latest, What's So Confusing About Grace?

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