April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, so we’re here to raise awareness. Be forewarned, not all learning is fun.

Rape is another word for sexual assault, but not all sexual assault is rape. Sexual assault also includes unwanted sexual touching, forcing a victim to perform sexual acts and attempted rape. Rape is defined as forced sexual intercourse. It can involve penetration of the vagina, anus or mouth, using a penis or a foreign object. Both females and males can be raped.

Every 73 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted, and only 5 out of 1,000 rapists will end up in prison.* If we’ve still not shocked you, how about now: under current California law, rape of an unconscious person and trafficking a child for sex are not considered violent crimes.

And it’s these so-called “non-violent” offenders — along with a hefty list of others — that Proposition 57 made eligible for early release from prison back in 2016, after its proponents insisted that it would only apply to those inmates who posed no threat to public safety. NO THREAT, they said.

But Prop. 57 didn’t explain to voters what is and isn’t a “non-violent” offense in California — and we believe that was intentional, since the list contains not only the crimes above, but also domestic violence, assault with a deadly weapon, and assault on a peace officer.

As a result, thousands of inmates with long records of violent crimes have already been released, and thousands more become eligible for early release every day. Seriously.

A superior court judge recently ruled that Proposition 57 does indeed apply to inmates convicted of violent sex offenses, including those serving time for crimes against children.

The case centered on an inmate named Gregory Gadlin, who is currently serving time for slashing his girlfriend’s face and hands with a butcher knife while on parole. His criminal portfolio includes gang-raping a 17-year-old girl after promising to take her to the hospital after she was gang-raped earlier by another group, and the rape of his 11-year-old niece. He had taken his niece to a hotel where, according to his sentencing brief, “he raped her, forced her to orally copulate him and then urinated in her mouth.”

Gadlin’s sentencing brief goes on to warn that he “has repeatedly used force and violence on women and children throughout his lifetime.” Nevertheless, he qualifies for early release under Proposition 57, because his crime of repeatedly stabbing and slashing his girlfriend is not considered violent under California law.

The proponents of Proposition 57 specifically promised voters that convicted violent sexual offenders like Gadlin would not be eligible for early release consideration because they were sexual offenders. The proponents lied.

Thousands of other inmates with similar histories of violence and abuse are already back on the street because of Proposition 57. These aren’t petty criminals who committed low-level victimless crimes, but serious and violent offenders whose crimes have done lasting physical and psychological damage to their victims and their victims’ families.

The “Keep California Safe” initiative will fix this flaw by reclassifying nearly two dozen crimes that are not considered violent under current law — like raping an unconscious person and human trafficking — and putting them on the state’s list of violent crimes. As a result, inmates convicted of these crimes would not be eligible for early release and would instead be required to serve their full sentences, giving them more time in prison to hopefully turn their lives around by committing to counseling and rehabilitation.

Until California goes on record that raping an unconscious person or sexually abusing a child are in fact violent crimes, it’s difficult to watch the state observe a month dedicated to Sexual Assault prevention without thinking it somewhat disingenuous.

* https://www.rainn.org/about-sexual-assault

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