Court Overturns Rape Conviction Because 1872 Law Says Unmarried Women Can’t Get Raped
An 18-year-old woman who was raped by her brother’s friend, who pretended to be the victim’s own boyfriend, has had her rape conviction overturned by a California appeals court because of a 1872 law that says unmarried women are not legally protected from sexual assault by “impostors.”
As the UK’s Independent describes, Julio Morales sexually assaulted the sleeping victim in 2009 after she fell asleep alongside her boyfriend in a bed. The boyfriend then got up out of bed and left the apartment; Morales witnessed him leave. Later on that night, Morales entered the room and began raping the victim (while she was still asleep, as he was convicted of “rape of an unconscious person,” according to USA Today). During the rape, the victim thought Morales was her boyfriend — until light from outside the bedroom door revealed his face. The victim “pushed him away” and “began to cry and yell.”
Morales was convicted of sexual assault — as well he should have been. He clearly abused this sleeping woman’s consent. But the 2nd District Court of Appeals in Los Angeles has reversed the decision based on the 1872 law that only protected married ladies from “impostor” rape because the impostor would have been impersonating her husband — i.e. the only socially-sanctioned person with whom she could copulate. Back in Ye Olden Times, married women were considered naturally more virtuous than unmarried ones. You know those unmarried slutty slut sluts can’t be trusted to not have consensual sex with men and then change their minds later and say they thought he was someone else! Yup. Totally one of those things about being single.
The conviction was overturned on this minor technicality, based on a practically ancient law that does not adequately protect all women. This is the nineteenth century version of the “good victim” — you know, the victim who wasn’t drinking or wearing a short skirt while she was attacked. Nineteenth century rape law was more concerned with preserving the virtues of genteel married ladies than, you know, consent. Maybe legally it was the by-the-book, “correct” decision. But the law itself is offensive and wrong and must be changed immediately. And even the judges who overturned the conviction agree.