In response to Brock Turner’s lenient sentence, lawmakers voted unanimously to take sexual assault more seriously
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Following news that convicted rapist Brock Turner will be released from jail three months early, the California Assembly voted to enforce prison sentences for those convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious person, NPR reports. Politicians, journalists, and spectators alike found Turner’s six-month sentence to be frustratingly lenient given the fact that the former Stanford student was convicted of sexually assaulting an inebriated, unconscious woman.
In a unanimous 66-to-0 vote, lawmakers approved a bill that will make it harder for convicted rapists to get off so easily. Assemblyman Bill Dodd, who helped author the new bill, said in a statement:
“Sexually assaulting an unconscious or intoxicated victim is a terrible crime and our laws need to reflect that. Letting felons convicted of such crimes get off with probation discourages other survivors from coming forward and sends the message that raping incapacitated victims is no big deal.”
But what is the difference between a jail sentence and a prison sentence? According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, it basically comes down to sentence length and type of facility. As opposed to federally and state run prisons, jails are operated by local governments and primarily serve as short-term holding facilities for inmates awaiting trial. While prisons can house inmates serving life sentences, jails typically only harbor inmates for up to one year.
According to current California laws, prison sentences are only imposed when a sexual assault involves physical force. With the new law instated, prison sentences will be mandatory for those convicted of sexually assaulting unconscious victims, even if physical force was not applied. That being said, don’t all cases of assault involve physical force?
Issues like these should require states to reexamine their laws pertaining to rape seeing as many are outdated, and quite frankly, alarmingly sexist. As recently as 2009, a man evaded charges after sneaking into a stranger’s dark bedroom and forcing sex on a woman who initially complied, thinking the man was her boyfriend. Under California’s “rape by deception” law, the man could not be convicted of sexual assault because the victim was not married. And let’s not forget that up until 1979, it was perfectly legal in this country for a man to rape his wife.
While this new bill will certainly help increase the severity of sentences for sexual assault perpetrators, there’s still much work to be done to ensure lawmakers take these violent crimes seriously.