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California's laws on sexual violence set to change

Up until now, California law classified rapes that occurred outside of threat or force as non-violent crimes. However, if state assembly members have their way, that definition will soon change.

Advocates of the new law point out that rape, even without the threat of force or actual force, is still a violent crime in which victims are physically and emotionally harmed. The long-term consequences can be devastating.

This bill is the latest measure in a series of legal responses to the national outrage that followed the case of a Stanford University student who was caught in the act of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman. Under the California laws that existed at the time, his actions weren't legally rape since there was no physical proof that he'd penetrated her with his penis. Despite being caught in the act, the student ended up only serving three months in a California prison, followed by a three-year probation back in his home state of Ohio.

Both the judge in his case and the student's father raised fury with the general public for their apparent attitude that his actions somehow should be judged on a more lenient scale since he was an otherwise good student, nationally-ranked athlete and didn't use violence on the victim. He could have faced a maximum of 14 years in prison instead of the much lighter sentence he received.

The case highlighted the differences between federal law, which defines rape as any penetration of the vagina or anus by any object, and California law, which considered object penetration a crime of a lesser degree. Since then, California law has been changed to bring it in line with the federal definition. As of Jan. 1, 2017, not only will rape be defined as all forms of non-consensual sexual assault, judges will be unable to grant probation to convicted rapists.

The changes in the law could make it easier for victims to get justice if they've been sexually abused.

Victims of sexual abuse may benefit from seeking legal help in order to secure a protective order against their abuser, particularly in the case of spouse-on-spouse rape or in other cases where the victim and the abuser live or work together.

Source: www.abc10.com, "New bill in California legislature would make all forms of rape a violent felony," Anthony Cave, KXTV, Dec. 16, 2016

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