Political News

Kansas lawmakers renew effort to outlaw sexual battery against a spouse

Posted January 28, 2020 6:24 p.m. EST

— Kansas lawmakers are renewing bipartisan efforts to make sexual battery of a spouse illegal.

The state House Judiciary Committee on Monday voted to advance HB 2467, a bill that would amend the state's sexual battery law, according to committee assistant Kathi Rakestraw.

Kansas currently defines sexual battery as "the touching of a victim who is not the spouse of the offender, who is 16 or more years of age and who does not consent thereto, with the intent to arouse or satisfy the sexual desires of the offender or another."

The proposed measure would remove the spousal exception from state law.

This is the second time in 12 months such a measure has been considered in the state Legislature. In 2019, an identical bill was floated, but it died in committee.

This year's bill was introduced by Judiciary Committee Chair Fred Patton, a Republican, on behalf of last year's sponsor state Rep. Brett Parker, a Democrat, according to the House website.

According to Patton, the House had a backlog of bills last year when the measure was originally introduced, so there was an effort to "get the bill out of committee early" in this new session.

Patton noted that most bills take a week in committee but that members had taken action on this measure within four working days.

"With this exemption on the books, it sends the wrong message that one can abuse their spouse and not be held accountable for it. As we heard in testimony, the current law is especially harmful for those in an abusive marriage. It is well past time that we remove this exemption," Patton said in an email.

The bill will head to a full House vote in the coming months.

"Our Judiciary Committee has spent a good deal of time over the past two years studying ways to effectively combat the horrific violence and abuse real Kansans sometimes experience in broken relationships. I'm looking forward to the entire House addressing such an important issue this session," House Majority Leader Dan Hawkins, a Republican, said in a statement.

The bill's advancement in the Kansas state House of Representatives was first reported by The Kansas City Star.

"Violence and abuse have no place in any relationship. This is an important opportunity to make needed changes and bring Kansas law up to date," said Kansas House Speaker Ron Ryckman, a Republican, in a statement.

The bill is being hailed by advocates, like Kansas Coalition Against Sexual & Domestic Violence, a state organization dedicated to eliminating and preventing domestic and sexual violence. The coalition's executive director, Joyce Grover, told CNN in an email that the exact number of spousal sexual battery cases is unknown, as "it is generally accepted" that such crimes are "underreported" in the state.

According to state law enforcement statistics, in 2018 only two incidents of spousal sexual battery were reported, an estimated 0.1% of the total for the state for the year -- though not all law enforcement agencies reported the relationships between the parties involved in sexual battery cases.

"Historically, the crime of rape or sexual assault in marriage was not legally possible, as wives and children were generally the property of their husbands or fathers and, as property laws went, one can do what one wants with one's own property," Grover said.

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