Demand California Change Dated Law to Protect Unmarried Rape Victims

Target: California Legislature

Goal: Demand California legislature amend arcane law that permits rape

A bizarre and disturbing rape case in California has brought up many questions about a particular state law from the 1800’s. In a retrial, an appellate court overturned a previous rape conviction because the victim wasn’t married. The case has prompted an outcry from women’s groups and a state legislator who plans to introduce a bill that would close the strange and legal loophole that led to the overturning of the perpetrator’s conviction.

California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal ruled that Julio Morales was not guilty of raping an 18 year old woman. A California state law from the 1870’s says someone who gets consent for sex by pretending to be someone else, cannot be convicted for rape unless the victim is married and the perp has pretended to be the victim’s spouse, and in this case the old law helped exonerate Morales. Morales was pretending to be his victim’s boyfriend when he began to have sex with her, and the woman did not realize it was not her boyfriend until she got a better look at his face in the light. The victim says she screamed and tried to push Morales away, and he eventually left the room.

“A man enters the dark bedroom of an unmarried woman after seeing her boyfriend leave late at night and has sexual intercourse with the woman while pretending to be the boyfriend,” the court said. “Has the man committed rape? Because of historical anomalies in the law and the statutory definition of rape, the answer is no, even though, if the woman had been married and the man had impersonated her husband, the answer would be yes.” The court was “reluctant” about the decision, but decided that compliance with the arcane law necessitated the outcome.

California law declares this kind of rape-by-deception a crime if the victim was unconscious or asleep or “submits under the belief that the person committing the act is the victim’s spouse, and this belief is induced by any artifice, pretense, or concealment practiced by the accused, with intent to induce the belief.” Since the victim and her boyfriend were not married, Morales couldn’t be accused of pretending to be her husband, which means he didn’t violate California’s penal code.

The California legislature must update this law to protect unmarried rape victims in situations like the Morales case.


Dear California Legislature,

The recent decision of California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal to overturn a previous rape conviction based on an arcane law shows a dangerous gap in California’s legal system.  The law, created in the 1800’s, essentially permits rape, allowing an individual to get consent for sex by pretending to be someone else as long as the victim is unmarried.

This law is ridiculous and shameful, clearly a relic of a time where women had very little freedom. It is important that all of the women of your state are protected and do not need to worry about being denied rights or justice because of their marital status.

Please honor the victim in this case and rape victims everywhere by amending this bizarre 19th century law.

You must act swiftly to protect unmarried victims of sexual violence. As a progressive state that has deeply valued women’s rights, this dated law is a stain on that reputation.


[Your Name Here]

photo credit: english 106 via flickr

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  1. Rape is a Violation of the rights of a human being. It violates it’s victims Physically and Emotionally often leaving deep,emotional scars that can last for a lifetime,completely devastating and disrupting the victim’s life leaving them with feelings of guilt and shame. This so-called ‘Law’ that seemingly protects the criminal and takes away the rights of innocent women should be ABOLISHED.

  2. Only married women can be raped… Yeah, and only if there’s a certain number of male witnesses saying it happened too; right? I hear that’s how it’s done in Saudi Arabia as well.. .The fact that this rediculous law came about in the 1870s says it all. I just can’t believe that the state of California is so behind the times that they can allow something like this to happen in 2013. Shame on you!!!

  3. ellen kelleher says:

    IT IS STILL. ALL ABOUT OWNERSHIP. If she is no one’s PROPERTY – then where’s the harm? The HARM would be to the husband. . Damaged goods, y’know… That Twice! Traumatized Woman deserves another day in court. We are watching you, California.

    • Scott Davidson says:

      Ellen – I wish you weren’t so right. For my sisters and wife and daughter, I wish you weren’t so right. But you are.

  4. ellen kelleher says:

    Thank You, Scott. I /We need to be reminded that there ARE Real Men out there. Thank You for being one of them.

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