After Stanford, California Might Change its Definition of Rape

California legislators are trying to change California’s definition of rape and the mandatory minimum sentencing for it in the wake of Brock Turner’s conviction last month.

Brock Turner was convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman on Stanford’s campus and sentenced to six months in county jail. When Judge Persky handed down his sentence, he said of Turner, “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him. I think he will not be a danger to others." One of the reasons Persky was able to give Turner such a lenient sentence is because of California’s definition of rape.

Under California’s penal code, rape is defined as “an act of sexual intercourse” and because Turner did not penetrate his victim with his penis, he could not be charged with rape.  

But many people think he should have been charged with rape and gotten much more time for his crime.

Now Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen is sponsoring legislation with others to get mandatory minimum sentencing for crimes similar to Turner’s. The legislation “would send those convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious or intoxicated person to prison for at least three years and make them ineligible for probation,” explains The Mercury News.

After the California Senate’s Public Safety Committee approved Assembly Bill 2888 Rosen stated, "Instead of brandishing knives or threats, these predators use vodka or beer … Violating an unconscious woman is never an indiscretion. It is a violent, predatory, and deeply destructive crime. It should be treated as such. A natural consequence of drinking too much is a hangover, not a sexual assault.”  

And Assemblywomen Cristina Garcia and Susan Eggman are working to expand California’s definition of rape to be more like that of the FBI’s, which 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.”

In her op-ed in Time Garcia explains, “By defining rape in California as “an act of sexual intercourse,” we have created a loophole in our system through which we already know one too many rapists has passed … California’s antiquated rape law and the injustice it created is wholly unacceptable.”

These pieces of legislation are just two of the actions people are taking in the wake of Turner’s sentencing. On Change.org, more than 1.5 million people signed petitions related to the case. Some called for Judge Aaron Persky, who presided over the case to be removed from his position, while others asked Stanford to release the names of known rapists on campus.

We’ll be sure to keep you updated on those petitions and these pieces of legislation as they move forward.