The Lookout: 'Rape is rape,' say lawmakers pushing new sexual assault laws

By Aldon Thomas Stiles | California Black Media



There are few betrayals as heinous and damaging as being violated by the people we trust with our well-being. While no amount of legislation could ever fully restore what survivors of sexual assault and rape have lost, there are two four new California bills legislators are proposing to help them receive the justice they deserve.

The first two are Assembly Bill (AB) 812 and Senate Bill (SB) 530. Both aim to punish spousal rape as severely as non-spousal rape.

As it stands now, spousal rape in California does not have as many qualifiers as non-spousal rape, which means that it is more difficult to convict someone of said crime if they are married to the victim.

“As a prosecutor, I am concerned any time a law is fundamentally flawed in both statute and application," said Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen.

"My office has tried enough rape cases to understand that rape is rape. The Spousal Rape Law will fix a historic defect in California’s rape and sexual assault laws. All victims of rape deserve to be treated with fairness and dignity by the criminal justice system. I firmly support the passage of AB 812,” Rosen said.


Supporters of AB 812 say matching the qualifiers in the language for spousal and non-spousal rape will make their definitions identical – and, thusly, their consequences.

"The relationship between a person who is raped and their attacker — whether they are strangers, friends, or even spouses -- should not have any importance in the eyes of the law," says Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Campbell), co-author of AB 812. "Rape is rape. It is one of the most vicious crimes imaginable and it should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

The Assembly Committee on Public Safety is currently reviewing AB 812.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), 10% to 14% of married women will be raped during their marriage.

Of that percentage, 18% of women victims claim that their children bore witness to this crime.

SB 530 is identical in its intention to do away with the spousal rape distinction.

"California's spousal rape law is a slap in the face to all women and sexual assault survivors and it must go," said Michele Dauber, Frederick I. Richman Professor of Law and Professor at Stanford University.

"It's time that California law recognizes that all rape is equally serious regardless of the relationship between the victim and the perpetrator. Rape is rape, period."

The Senate Public Safety Committee has scheduled a hearing for April 20 on SB 530.

Another piece of legislation, Assembly Bill (AB) 1455, also focuses on rape. It is designed to give victims of sexual assault at the hands of law enforcement more time to pursue a civil case against their attackers.

According to an investigation by Mercury News, over 80 law enforcement officers currently serving have been convicted of at least one crime.

"It’s scary for any sex-assault survivor to seek recourse against their perpetrator in any situation and I think even more difficult if the person who perpetrated the crime is a law enforcement official,” Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland), author of AB 1455, told the Daily Democrat. “There’s a power dynamic involved. The goal is to level the imbalance of power and give victims more time.”

The Assembly Judiciary Committee is currently reviewing AB 1455.

The California Criminal Cop Project, a study two UC Berkeley School of Journalism students conducted with the help of dozens of reporters from six California Media organizations, found that over 600 police officers were convicted of a crime in the last decade, 50 of which were related to sex offenses. Results of the research project, released in 2020, focused on the occurrence, frequency and penalties of police officer crime convictions.

Senate Bill (SB) 615, authored by Senator Melissa Melendez (R-Lake Elsinore), would require individuals who commit certain sexual acts with a minor more than three years younger to register as a sex offender.

As it stands currently, registration is not required unless the offender is over 10 years older than the minor.

The Senate Committee on Public Safety has set an April 27 hearing for SB 615.

Survivors of sexual assault and rape face an unspeakable burden that weighs heavily on their spirits for years. And while the law cannot provide absolution, there is hope that it might someday provide justice.



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