Making Rape-by-Impersonation a Felony

State Assembly Approves Bill Prompted by Santa Barbara Sexual Assault

Wednesday, August 21, 2013
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The California State Assembly unanimously approved a measure on Monday that closes an odd loophole in rape-by-impersonation laws. The bill, if signed by Governor Jerry Brown, will allow prosecutors to charge anyone who coerces a victim into sexual activity by impersonating someone known to the victim with felony rape. The existing law only allows people impersonating a spouse to be charged with a felony, with lesser charges for those merely impersonating a lover or someone else to instigate sexual activity.

“Typically you see this type of crime on college campuses,” said District Attorney Joyce Dudley, who first spearheaded the measure in 2011. She added that not all cases involve alcohol or drugs.

Dudley first brought the issue to San Luis Obispo Assemblymember Katcho Achadjian, after an incident in Santa Barbara County in 2009 in which a male accuser broke into a home on N. Quarantina Street, where a woman, Courtney Wettach, who was sober, had been asleep in her own bed. The intruder passed her sleeping boyfriend on the couch, entered the victim’s bedroom, and got into bed with Wettach. He proceeded to instigate sexual activity with her by impersonating her boyfriend.

The suspect was later caught, but unable to be prosecuted for felony rape, simply because the perpetrator impersonated Wettach’s boyfriend, and not her husband. Although the accuser ultimately received an 18-year prison sentence for several other crimes, Dudley could not prosecute him for felony rape.

Dudley estimated that a few cases of rape-by-impersonation occur every year. She said this type of rape is probably especially underreported because of the confusing and embarrassing nature of the situation. Dudley clarified that the bill does not allow a person to retroactively claim they were raped if he or she consented to sex with someone who pretended to be a person unknown to the victim, like a celebrity.

State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, one of the 71 members of the Senate and Assembly who co-authored the bill, said in a statement, “This bills updates the current law to better reflect the modern society we live in.” Assemblymember Bonnie Lowenthal (Long Beach) and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez (Los Angeles) were other key advocates.

“It is unconscionable that in 2013, a rape prosecution hinges on whether or not the victim is married,” Achadjian said in a statement. He added he is pleased that we “are on track to closing this outdated loophole.”


Independent Discussion Guidelines

Rape is about forcing someone to have sex with you. How does someone impersonate someone's lover/sexual partner equal the violence of rape, and how do you fool someone into thinking you are their lover/partner? Hannah-Beth Jackson is obsessed with us-against-them gender division, and she's a hypocrite. I took her to task on the Paul Berenson Show when she was going on about how we need a woman president and "all things being equal" she was going to support Hilary Clinton all the while she was railing against the war in Iraq. When I pointed out (this was back in 2007 when I called the show) that Dennis Kucinich was against the war but Clinton was not, so therefore if Jackson was truly against the war she should support Kucinich for the nomination, she argued simply that "he can't win". Gender politics over logic. As I just pointed out in another post about the perversion of the civil rights movement The civil rights movement of today is not the civil rights movement of old. In the past, it was about striving for equal rights and togetherness, today it's about lowered standards and entitlement. How did we go from Martin Luther King to Al Sharpton?

billclausen (anonymous profile)
August 21, 2013 at 2:30 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I thought the media didn't publish the names of rape victims.

Moonrunner (anonymous profile)
August 21, 2013 at 2:55 p.m. (Suggest removal)

It's difficult to see how anyone would have a problem with this bill, which simply closes a loophole and makes the crime of rape comparable whether or not the victim is married. It just makes sense.

Nockamixon (anonymous profile)
August 21, 2013 at 4:08 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Isn't it already against the law to rape someone?

billclausen (anonymous profile)
August 21, 2013 at 4:31 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I wish someone had told me it was OK to rape someone as long as I pretended I was someone else. It just seems so much less heinous...Any other crimes fall into this category?

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
August 21, 2013 at 5:13 p.m. (Suggest removal)

"Isn't it already against the law to rape someone?"
-- billclausen

Jesus, Bill. Read the friggin' article. Shoot for a little comprehension this time (or would it be the first time?).

SezMe (anonymous profile)
August 23, 2013 at 2:37 a.m. (Suggest removal)

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