California Bans Stealthing and Enhances Punishment for Spousal Rape

On October 7, 2021, Governor Gavin Newsom signed two bills creating two new laws that provide more rights for victims of sexual assault and sexual misconduct.

The first bill, California Assembly Bill 453, is the first of its kind in the nation, according to the Associated Press.  The bill makes it a civil battery offense to remove a condom during sex without the verbal consent from their partner.  This sex act is commonly known as “stealthing.”

The second bill, California Assembly Bill 1171, enhances punishment for spousal rape by acknowledging that spousal rape is the same as non-spousal rape, and punishment for spousal rape should be the same as for non-spousal rape.

Both of these bills were introduced by Democratic Assemblymember Cristina Garcia.  She represents the state’s 58th district which includes the city of Downey.  She has been advocating for these laws since 2017.

According to Garcia, "Sexual assaults, especially those on women of color, are perpetually swept under the rug...It's disgusting that there are online communities that defend and encourage stealthing and give advice on how to get away with removing the condom without the consent of their partner."

AB1171 also changes the penalty for spousal rape. While those who rape their spouses had the same maximum penalties as those who rape non-spouses, they were able to receive probation and did not get placed on the sex offender registry. Now, if a spouse is raped by force, while under the influence or unconscious, or was threatened with retaliation, the perpetrator will not be able to evade those penalties.

Prior to the bill's signing, California was one of only nine states that differentiated between spousal and non-spousal rape.  The former law defined rape as an "act of sexual intercourse accomplished with a person not the spouse of the perpetrator under certain circumstances." Included in those circumstances are an inability to give legal consent because of a disorder or disability or the perpetrator fraudulently representing the situation. However, under the previous law, spousal rape "does not include acts of sexual intercourse accomplished under the specific circumstances." (Emphasis added)

Again, according to Garcia, “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 mandate adherence to a law that will protect vulnerable spouses in a union.”

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