Sexual assault stories have dominated the news recently, and we have received many questions about defending others against sexual assault and rape. We reached out to Independent Program Attorney Emily Taylor to get the answers to your legal questions on defending a third party against rape and sexual assault.

Emily Taylor: When can you protect a loved one in Texas? The law of defense of others is found in Texas Penal Code 9.33, and applies not only to your loved ones, but to any third party, whether they’re your relation and acquaintances or perfect stranger. You can protect a third party, including those loved ones, if under the circumstances as you reasonably believe them to be; you’d be justified in protecting yourself and you also reasonably believed your intervention is immediately necessary to protect the third person. This means if you see your loved one encountering an attempted murder, sexual assault, or aggravated sexual assault, aggravated kidnapping, robbery, or aggravated robbery you may step in and defend them with force or deadly force.

Notice, that the law requires you to reasonably believe the circumstances to constitute one of these attacks. If you’re mistaken as to the situation it doesn’t absolutely mean that you won’t be justified so long as a reasonable person would have also believed that the third party was the victim of an attempted murder, sexual assault, or aggravated sexual assault, aggravated kidnapping, robbery, or aggravated robbery.