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Rape Loophole Spurs Controversy

SANTA BARBARA — A 19th century California law is drawing national scrutiny and it all has to do with the state’s definition of rape and two women with eerily similar cases. The attention is prompting changes to the penal code but this will be the second time around. The California Penal Code defines three types of rape: rape by force, rape by intoxication and rape by fraud. Rape by fraud is where the perpetrator misleads the victim and makes them believe they are somebody else. But under the law, that somebody else is very specific. “The only time it’s rape by impersonation or rape by fraud is when someone is impersonating your husband. If you don’t have a husband than legally you weren’t raped,” explained Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley. The law dates back to 1872 but up until 2009, that part of the law didn’t come into question. That’s when a Santa Barbara woman though her boyfriend crawled into bed with her but then she realized it wasn’t him but an intruder. The man was not charged with rape because of the law’s wording. “So if you just took out a few words then the rape victim in Santa Barbara County would have had justice. With that word ‘spouse’ in there, there’s no justice,” said Dudley. Assemblymember Katcho Achadjian and District Attorney Dudley fought to change the law in 2011 before another rape by impersonation occurred. But the legislation got caught up in a senate committee and was never voted on. “My goal is a rape is a rape, and there is no two ways about it. Just because a woman is single and not married doesn’t qualify a felon to make a use of existing law and get their way with a woman’s privacy,” said Achadjian. In 2009 a Los Angeles woman was raped by impersonation. That man was convicted but in early January of this year his conviction was overturned because once again, the victim was not married. “It was sickening that here we are, we tried this two years ago and if we were successful, we could have put an end to this,” said Achadjian. Now the assemblyman is reintroducing his previous legislation in hopes the second time around will be successful. Achadjian told KEY News AB 65 already has more than 50 co-authors and hopes it will go to the Assembly by March.

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