The recent changes in some California Bills have altered how the state handles sex crimes against women and children. The Bills include AB 2888, AB 29, and AB 701. The changes on these bills impose a mandatory punishment for the crime of rape. The laws have been expanded to include non-consensual sexual assault crime as rape (Ulloa). The proposed changes to the Bills are in response to the Stanford Rape Case. In the case, the judge sentenced a Stanford student to six-months in prison for sexual assault. This sentence led to a public outcry. California lawmakers also reacted to the situation by stating the need for increased punishment for rape offenders (Ulloa). The changes in the bill expand the state’s definition of rape. Also, the changes impose a mandatory minimum sentence on the offenders (Ulloa).
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Before the changes, there were heated debates concerning the mishandling of sexual assault investigations in U.S College campuses by courts and security agencies. The initial law defined rape as, “an act of sexual intercourse,” committed in cases where there is a lack of consent. Other types of offenses, such as the use of foreign objects for penetration were categorized separately. Furthermore, the law was blurry when it comes to the issue of consent. The Stanford Rape Case significantly affected the existing laws. The perpetrator was charged with assault with an attempt to rape. He was also convicted of two other charges of penetration of an intoxicated individual as well as penetration of an unconscious individual. Legal gaps allowed the judge to sentence the perpetrator on probation for both charges.
The issue of sexual assault and sexual violence have significantly gained attention across universities and colleges in the country. Although these issues are not confined to higher learning institutions, there have been extensive reports that these institutions have high incidences of sexual violence, and sexual assault (Napolitano 387). However, sexual assault cases are often marred in complexities. These complexities cover the broad continuum of conduct, from offensive statements to severe issues such as gang rape. Academic institutions have responded by incorporating policies to respond and prevent sexual violence. For instance, in 2014, the UC (University of California) issued a presidential policy against sexual violence and sexual harassment in accordance with the federal Violence Act against women Reauthorization Act. The policy also provided support and training to students, staff, and faculty members on the issue (Napolitano 389). The policy also adopted an affirmative consent standard.
On 28th September 2014, the Governor Jerry Brown introduced a Senate bill that marked the official implementation of affirmative consent. Critics claim that the affirmative consent standards are unfair to those accused of sexual violence (Napolitano 389). However, with studies noting that one in every five women are victims of actual or attempted rape in campuses, the need to address the issue, including the forms of punishment have never been more urgent. The legislation pitfalls in the state, from textual ambiguities to a lowered standard of proof in the disciplinary procedure, make it difficult to bring perpetrators to justice (Marciniak 51).
The new changes in the laws have their fair share of support and criticism. To some, the laws have made things worse. The recent bill ‘967’ dubbed the ‘yes means yes’ law is stated to promote a double standard. Some argue that by redefining rape as any act without affirmative consent, the state dangerously expands the category of sexual assault to include consensual acts that may occur within the framework of “affirmative agreement.” The new bill attempts to separate consent from desire. Therefore, a person must speak their desire for it to count. The issue of obtaining affirmative consent makes the changes ineffective in tackling the issue of sexual assault in California.
- Marciniak, Allison L. ‘The Case Against Affirmative Consent: Why the Well-Intentioned Legislation Dangerously Misses the Mark.’ U. Pitt. L. Rev. 77 (2015): 51.
- Napolitano, Janet. ‘Only Yes Means Yes: An Essay on University Policies regarding Sexual Violence and Sexual Assult.’ Yale L. & Pol’y Rev. 33 (2014): 387.
- Ulloa Jasmine. California Toughens Laws Against Rape after Brown Signs Bills Inspired by Brock Turner Case, Los Angeles Times. Web. 25 May 2017.