‘Rape is Rape’ Declares Large Coalition, Demands Hearing at Capitol for Spousal Rape Law Measure

California State Capitol

California State Capitol

By William McCurry

SACRAMENTO, CA – Assemblymembers Christina Garcia and Evan Low, a coalition of reform-minded California prosecutors and California National Organization for Women (NOW) Kolieka Seigle are calling for an immediate hearing in the Assembly Public Safety Committee on Assembly Bill 812, a progressive update of the state’s outdated “spousal rape” statues.

District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar, DA George Gascón, DA Chesa Boudin, and DA Jeff Rosen are all part of the coalition to have AB 812 heard immediately.

“Rape is rape if you’re a college student. Rape is rape if you’re a woman of color. Rape is rape if you’re a trans woman. And rape is rape whether you’re married or not. Rape is always rape. We demand a hearing on this bill now,” said Seigle, the first African American President of California’s NOW chapter.

“Not providing AB 812 a hearing directly contradicts the urgency to modernize our penal code to be line with our values and make clear that no means no,” said Assemblymember Garcia, bill author and Chair of the Legislative Women’s Caucus.

“Current spousal rape statutes say that in California, a marriage license allows a spouse to violate both the body and the dignity of a non-consenting spouse with minimal accountability,” the lawmaker charged.

Since its start in 1975, NOW has charged to eliminate the state’s spousal rape law. Along with the help from California prosecutors, they are joined by women’s rights and victim service organizations which include Congressman Ro Khanna, Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, former U.S. Secretary of Labor and current Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis, and former Senate President Pro Tem and current Los Angeles City Councilmember Kevin de León, who have all rallied behind the bill.

Assemblymember Evan Low said: “AB 812 is a no-brainer. Updating an outdated, 50-year-old rape code to ensure spouses have the same accountability for rape as non-spouses just makes sense. I urge that the bill be scheduled for a hearing immediately. This is an urgent issue for victims.”

California is one of a small handful of states that continue to distinguish spousal rape from rape. Under current California law, spousal rape is a separate and less serious crime. AB 812 would eliminate this distinction.

San Francisco DA Boudin, a leading criminal justice reformer, strongly backs AB 812.

“It is urgent that we repeal the spousal rape exception and treat all rape equally regardless of marital status,” Boudin said. “This unjust law sends the message that sexual assault and domestic violence are not serious crimes, which could cause some victims not to report these offenses. Every day we see the terrible toll of domestic abuse on survivors, on families, and on society at large. Abusers must be held accountable.”

San Joaquin County DA Salazar said, “There is a simple concept here and that is rape is rape. It doesn’t matter if the person committing the crime is married to the victim or not. The crime is still violent and most often leaves victims with life-long trauma. AB 812 needs to be heard because victims of rape don’t deserve to have to wait even one day longer for justice.”

Los Angeles County DA Gascón added, “Our laws should protect all victims of rape equally, regardless of whether the crime was committed by a spouse. I support this bill because it pushes California to provide equal justice for all rape victims. It is long overdue for our state to join the rest of the nation in doing so.”

Santa Clara County DA Rosen said: “The truth is no one ever says ‘I Do’ to rape. My office has tried enough rape cases to understand that RAPE is RAPE, wedding ring or not. The Spousal Rape Law aims to fix a historic and horrific defect in California’s rape and sexual assault laws. All victims of rape deserve fair and dignified treatment. I strongly urge a hearing for AB 812 as soon as possible.”

William McCurry is a fourth year at Sacramento State, majoring in Criminal Justice. He is from Brentwood, California.

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About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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  1. Tia Will

    I am strongly in favor of AB 812. I agree with the points made in this article and would add one more fact we know about domestic violence that makes its passage even more compelling.

    Violent rape committed by a stranger, while horrific, traumatic and life altering, tends to be a one time event. Domestic abuse, on the other hand tends to be repetitive and progressive. It often starts with verbal and emotional abuse to progressively more physically violent attacks which can include rape, ultimately ending in murder. Rape of one’s marriage partner is most often not a single event but part of a very dangerous ongoing nightmare with the life of the victim at stake.

  2. Eric Gelber

    AB 812 wasn’t heard due to a new Assembly rule that allows the chair of a committee to decide not to hear a bill without explanation. So, we don’t know why it hasn’t been heard at this point.

    Another spousal rape bill was introduced in the Senate but the author made it a two-year bill because the committee wanted to amend the bill contrary to its intent, according to the author. Interestingly, the California Public Defenders Association opposes the Senate bill because it would remove the discretion of the judge to grant probation, even if the victim wants it due to financial hardship on the family, for example, and because it would mandate sex offender registration in all cases.

  3. Bill Marshall

    I find it slightly amusing that the definition of “rape” is Penal Code section 261 (spelling, like words, are important!)… it also appears that it will not include non-forcible acts… so, I too support the intent of the legislation…

    It’s one thing to try to seduce when one hears, “I have a headache”, or “I’m too tired” (both of which could technically be called “no”s), a totally different thing when physical/psychological FORCE is involved…

    It appears, as written, this should be a no-brainer for passage and enactment…

    But, there is still the problem, in existing and proposed law, of  ‘Sunday morning regrets’ re:  consensual sex… not sure we can legislate around those, tho’…  that is what it is…

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