In the wake of Brock Turner's lenient sentencing in his sexual assault case, the Democratic Women's Caucus in California wants to see some changes in how the state treats sexual violence. Turner, a 20-year-old former Stanford University student, was sentenced to a mere six months in county jail after he was convicted of three felony counts of sexual assault. Despite his sentence, he is not a rapist — at least, not under California state law. With the amount of backlash Judge Aaron Persky's ruling has received and with the organizing efforts of the Women's Caucus, can the Brock Turner case change California rape laws?
Turner was found guilty by a jury of the following charges: "assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated [and] unconscious person, penetration of an intoxicated person, and penetration of an unconscious person." However, he is not a rapist by law, because California state law currently defines rape as non-consensual sexual intercourse involving penile penetration. Turner was found guilty of sexual assault, rather than rape, as he was convicted of penetrating the victim with his fingers.
In the wake of this ruling, Democratic California assembly members Cristina Garcia and Susan Eggman are working to change the state's definition of rape to include all non-consensual sexual penetration. In an article for Time, Garcia wrote, "Turner’s actions may not have fit in to the traditional heterosexual definition of 'intercourse,' but the emotional and mental harm was still the same."
Garcia and Eggman are pushing for the state of California to adopt the FBI's definition of rape, which includes, "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."
This effort to change the state's rape laws wouldn't be the first. In 2014, the California Senate passed the "Affirmative Consent," or "yes means yes" law in response to the harrowing rates of sexual assault on college campuses. The bill notes that in order for college campuses to "receive state funds for student financial assistance," they have to adopt and adhere to affirmative consent laws. However, Garcia and Eggman's policy change takes things a step further by ensuring that people like Turner won't get such lenient sentences in the future. This is an important move toward taking all rape victims more seriously.