Thursday, California Governor Newsom signed AB 1171 that modernizes California’s spousal rape law. A strong coalition of woman’s justice advocates and reform minded prosecutors joined bill author and Chair of Legislative Woman’s Caucus Assemblymember Cristina Garcia (D- Bell Gardens) and principal co-author Senator Dave Cortese (D-San Jose) in celebrating the signature.
The bill has been supported by instrumental advocates Michele Dauber and the Enough Is Enough Voter Project, California National Organization for Women, Feminist Majority, and several California District Attorneys including Los Angeles County DA, George Gascon, San Joaquin County DA, Tori Verber Salazar, San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, Contra Costa County DA, Diane Bectin, and Santa Clara County DA, Jeff Rosen.
AB 1171, will bring parity to California’s rape statutes by requiring the same standards for “spousal rape” that is currently in the penal code for rape. The bill eliminates the “spousal rape exception” in the California Penal Code (Section 262) to ensure that “spousal rape” is treated and punished, as seriously as the rape of a non-spouse. Although “spousal rape” is illegal in all 50 states, California is one of nine states that distinguishes “spousal rape” from “rape.” Idaho and Ohio have recently passed Spousal Rape reform bills.
While we rarely use the term “spousal rape” when discussing the crime of rape–the act is common. In fact, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), between 10-14% of married women have been or may experience rape by their spouse. Additionally, 18% of these victims state their children have witnessed the rape.
“Rape is rape, regardless of the relationship between the rapist and a victim,” says co-author Senator Dave Cortese (D-San Jose). “The idea that marital rape should be punished less severely is absurd and this legal loophole can’t continue to be ignored.”
He added, “We must put a swift end to this archaic distinction once and for all. This bill is not only about leveling the law, it is about preventing this type of sexual abuse from occurring and promoting safety and respect for all.”
“This bill is a historic victory for our grassroots movement of survivors and advocates across the state, thousands of whom demanded the repeal of the spousal rape exception. There is still more to do, and Enough is Enough will continue to fight until every survivor is protected,” said Stanford Law Professor Michele Dauber, who leads Enough is Enough Voter Project.
“This bill will ensure that our laws protect all victims and survivors of sexual abuse and that rape committed against a spouse is treated just as seriously under the law as rape against any other victim and survivor,” said San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin. “I support AB 1171 to bring about necessary protections for domestic violence victims and survivors who suffer sexual abuse and hold those who commit spousal rape accountable.”
“From the beginning of our efforts, we have been clear that rape is rape. And a marriage license is not an excuse for committing one of society’s most violent and sadistic crimes. AB 1171 will put the power of law to help enforce that truth!” said Assemblymember Garcia.
“The first question a rape victim is asked should not be whether or not they are married. Rape is rape,” concluded Garcia.
Senator Dave Cortese represents State Senate District 15 which encompasses most of Santa Clara County, including the cities of Campbell, Los Gatos, Cupertino, Saratoga, Monte Sereno, and much of San Jose, stretching from the Santa Cruz Mountains to the west and Mountain Hamilton Range to the east.