By Savannah Dewberry
SACRAMENTO, CA – California Assemblymembers Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) and Evan Low (D-Campbell) announced their introduction of AB 812 Monday, a bill that aims to change the standards in the California Penal Code for “spousal rape.”
State Senator Dave Cortese introduced a similar bill, Senate Bill 530, that has the same aim.
Both the bills would eliminate the “spousal rape exception” in Section 262 of the California Penal Code, and have “spousal rape” be treated at the same level as “rape.”
Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia said, “The idea of ‘spousal rape’ is antiquated. In California, we have long since decided that ‘No means No’ and ‘Rape means rape.’ AB 812 is a simple bill that puts California’s legal code in line with our social values.”
Currently in Section 262 “spousal rape” is distinguished as separate from “rape.” In fact, in Penal Code section 261, the very definition of rape is “an act of sexual intercourse accomplished with a person not the spouse of the perpetrator.”
Since 2019, it has been stipulated in Section 261.6 that “a current or previous dating or marital relationship shall not be sufficient to constitute consent,” but the distinction between “spousal rape” and “rape” allows for the former to be treated less seriously.
The punishments for “spousal rape” under California Penal Code differ from “rape,” as those convicted of “spousal rape” are eligible for probation instead of prison or jail time. They also may not have to register as a sexual offender like all others convicted of “rape,” if they are not sentenced to state prison.
The bill has received support from San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin and Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen.
“Our laws must protect everyone equally from being victims of rape or sexual assault, no matter who commits the crime,” said Boudin. “I am proud to support this bill to implement this long-overdue change: ensuring that people who rape their spouse are accountable under the same laws as would apply in any other rape.”
“No one ever says ‘I Do’ to be raped. My office has tried enough rape cases to understand that RAPE is RAPE, wedding ring or not. The Spousal Rape Law will fix a historic and horrific defect in California’s rape and sexual assault laws. All victims of rape deserve fair and dignified treatment,” said Rosen.
Only 11 states, including California, still distinguish between “rape” and “spousal rape.” In 2019 Minnesota recently removed the distinction.
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) reports that between 10-14 percent of married women have or may experience rape by their spouse.
Nebraska was the first US State to outlaw marital sexual assault in 1975, but it wasn’t until 1993 that marital rape exemptions were removed in all 50 states.
Assemblymember Evan Low said in the press release: “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. Rape is rape. It’s one of the most vicious crimes imaginable—we should prosecute it to the fullest extent of the law.”
Savannah Dewberry is a student at the University of San Francisco. She is pursuing a Media Studies major with a minor in Journalism. Savannah Dewberry is an East Bay native and currently lives in San Francisco.
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