Days before former Stanford swimmer Brock Turner will be released from jail after serving three months on sexual assault charges, legislators in California just passed a bill that they hope will prevent convicted rapists from avoiding jail time.
State assembly members unanimously supported the new bill, which mandates automatic prison sentences and prevents the use of probation in cases where a victim may have been unconscious or incapable of giving consent. Currently, probation is barred only in sexual assault cases involving the use of force — which, apparently, means rapists whose victims were unconscious are still eligible.
The bill awaits the signature of Gov. Jerry Brown.
This new law was inspired by the controversial ruling in the case of 20-year-old Turner, who received a six-month jail sentence for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster, and subsequently was scheduled for an early release in recognition of his "good behavior."
"Rape is rape, and rapists like Brock Turner shouldn't be let off with a slap on the wrist," assemblyman Evan Low, who co-introduced the legislation, said in a statement. "While we can't go back and change what happened, we can make sure it never happens again."
California's new law is a step in the right direction to close loopholes that shield assault offenders from serving full sentences. Here are three other changes that states could adopt to further protect survivors:
1. All states could enact the same legislation that California just passed.
The loophole that allows sexual assault offenders to avoid jail time because their victim was unable to consent isn't unique to California. Just last week, a teen in Massachusetts received probation after he sexually assaulted two unconscious women.
2. States could pay for rape kits.
Several states — including Minnesota, Arizona, Kansas, South Dakota and Nevada — charge sexual assault victims for the expenses of a rape kit. A single kit can cost $1,000 or more. State legislatures could create a fund to pay for these expenses.
3. And, importantly, they could make all unwanted sexual contact illegal.
In the year 2016, it appears that two states lack the legislation to adequately charge and prosecute cases of sexual assault. Laws in Idaho and Mississippi that inadequately address and define sex crimes mean law enforcement must charge assailants with other, more minor crimes when they commit acts of sexual assault that are not rape.
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