Bill Put Forth to Clarify Antiquated California Rape Law

In response to this disturbing case that resulted in a dropped rape conviction because the victim was unmarried, California State Sen. Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa), chair of the California Women’s Caucus, decided it’s time to expand a 1870s rape law that currently applies only to married victims. The new legislation, SB 59, would replace “spouse” with “sexually intimate partner,” extending a provision—which previously only counted sex-by-impersonation as rape if the victim is married—to all cohabitants, including single women and men, domestic partners and gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender pairs.

While this is, of course, a positive development, the fact that this antiquated provision is just now being altered and that the Los Angeles Court of Appeals did nothing to protect a rape victim who was further victimized by a legal loophole is infuriating. Senator Evans, who coauthored this California rape law along with 12 other senators, agrees:

I am shocked and appalled that the court didn’t see fit to uphold justice for this rape survivor. The fact that such an outdated loophole still exists is baffling, but I will introduce legislation this session that will bring uniform clarity. The definition of rape is found in the act itself and having sex with an unconscious person is rape. Period.


Rachel Kassenbrock is a writer who works at the Feminist Majority Foundation and blogs for Ms. Follow her on Twitter at @rkassenbrock.