Recently, the nation was fixated on the light punishment for 20-year-old Stanford student Brock Turner, who received a sentence of only six months in jail after he was convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman.
Well, your Facebook friends and relatives weren’t the only ones paying attention to this case. It got the attention of California lawmakers, who are now attempting to redefine rape laws in the state.
The Definition of Rape in California
The Federal Bureau of Investigation defines rape as “penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”1
All but a few states have integrated this definition of rape with their own rape laws. California is among the few that has not, electing to define its own laws for rape.
In California, rape is defined as “an act of sexual intercourse” without consent, including where a victim may be unconscious or otherwise unable to give consent, under California Penal Code Section 261. This is the specific definition of rape in California, but there are separate laws for other acts such as sodomy, sexual assault and oral copulation.
This means convicted offenders could face lighter punishment for such crimes rather than the severe consequences of rape.
Will Rape Laws Change in California?
California assemblymembers Cristina Garcia and Susan Eggman have proposed legislation that would eliminate the state’s broad definition of rape and adopt the FBI’s definition. The bill has already passed the Senate Public Safety Committee and is being supported by many other assemblymembers.
Garcia and Eggman feel California’s broad definition of rape is problematic. Having different laws for similar crimes creates a system that hands down shorter sentences based on technicalities, such as the specific kind of sexual penetration involved.
Should someone who is charged with oral copulation face different consequences than someone accused of rape? The lawmakers feel the FBI’s definition of rape will clear up what it means to have “sexual intercourse” and make the definition of “rape” much more clear, even if it does change the state’s current definition. Continue reading →