Monday, February 27, 2017
Akron Beacon J., Ohio Bill Outlawing Marital Rape Gets No GOP Support, Again
As an assistant prosecutor in Summit County, Greta Johnson made a habit of asking females on the witness stand if they had married their alleged rapists.
“And that just seemed crazy to me. But it was a question I had to ask,” Johnson said. “I remember occasionally thinking, what if they were married? Would that have changed the situation?”
The situation? Maybe not. Justice for the crime? Maybe.
In Ohio, husbands or wives can rape their spouses so long as there is no force or threat of force. The “spousal exemption” means husbands can drug and rape wives, and avoid a first-degree felony rape charge.
“As a former prosecutor,” said Johnson, who now represents part of Akron in the Ohio House, “I would argue that you could still try to prosecute under the forced rape statute, but unfortunately drugging and raping your spouse in Ohio is not illegal.”
In her first term, Johnson introduced House Bill 234. It would have done away with this “spousal exemption” in Ohio’s criminal code. The bipartisan, bicameral Ohio Criminal Justice Recodification Committee explored this and agreed.
But the 2015 bill died in a Republican-controlled committee, receiving no more than initial testimony from its Democrat sponsors, Johnson and Rep. Teresa Fedor of Toledo.
Johnson suspects the bill failed for partisan reasons. Obstructing legislation offered by minority parties is common practice in Ohio’s history of making laws.
But GOP members also pushed back on a provision of the bill that eliminated Ohio’s 20-year statute of limitations on rape and sexual assault cases. Johnson still thinks rape should be categorized with murder and aggravated murder as crimes that have no shelf life for prosecution.
“I’ve always called rape murder of the soul. It changes people in fundamental ways. Nobody will ever be the same,” Johnson said. “The only thing [my clients] wanted was something I could never offer, which is the day before [the rape] happened.”
But with more pragmatism in her second term, Johnson have compromised by dropping the provision on statute of limitations and instead crafted a cleaner bill that focuses on the marital rape exemptions.