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Santa Maria Sun / Canary

The following article was posted on March 7th, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 14, Issue 2 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 14, Issue 2

Pardon my language

I’m tired off all the l-holes I’ve been seeing lately.

No, I’m not dropping some new street slang I learned from a gang of tough canaries. I’m talking about loopholes. But saying “l-hole” feels more satisfying, because I’m angry.

A few columns back, I wrote about something called “rape by fraud” and the efforts of state Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian and Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley to fight it. If you’ll recall—and I’m sorry if you do, but once you’ve learned about it, I don’t think you can forget it—there’s an l-hole in California that allows people to get away with rape. See, if a guy impersonates a woman’s boyfriend and, under that false pretense, has sex with her, she can’t get the law to do much about it once she discovers the horrible act, because California law doesn’t consider that a felony.

That particular l-hole began back in 1872, when times were different and people were more callous, I guess. The underlying idea is that, well, if she were married, that would be a crime, because, you know, she’s married. But if it’s just her boyfriend, she’s obviously so loose she’s willing to give it away to just anybody. So what’s one more guy? At least he tried to look like her significant other.

That’s disgusting. Horrible. And I don’t care if old-timey folks had different moral values. It’s just plain wrong. I mean, it takes a real a-hole to come up with an l-hole like that.

Ahem.

To be fair, California isn’t the only state to have clung to such a brutish l-hole for so long. A quick Internet search on the subject brought up headlines from the last several years, including 2010’s “Idaho rape-by-fraud law covers only married women” and 2009’s “Rape ‘by Deception’ May Become a Crime in Massachusetts.”

Bunch of l-holes.

Now, lest you think I’m a one-note canary, singing sadly about something of which I’ve already sung at length, I have two things to tell you.

First (and this admittedly doesn’t really help my argument): I want to keep this topic in your face. I want it to be in everyone’s faces. I want to make you so sick of hearing me harp about it that you do something about it. That somebody somehow convinces the Senate Public Safety Committee—which stymied Achadjian’s first attempts at closing this l-hole because of it arms-folded, nuh-uh-not-gonna-do-it stance of stalling any measure that could put more inmates in California’s prison system—to change its mind.

Second: I bring this up because another, similar l-hole was recently closed when the U.S. House of Representatives passed a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act—one that now includes protections for victims in the LGBT, Native American, and immigrant communities.

I’m happy about that, but because of my underlying anger, I can barely muster up enough goodwill to say, “It’s about time.” That’s almost 20 years some of the most vulnerable populations in the country haven’t been enjoying the sort of protections afforded to their more majority neighbors.

While the Violence Against Women Act hasn’t been floating around for as long as the flawed rape laws I talked about earlier—it was first signed into law in 1994—its silences, to mix a metaphor, were nonetheless glaring.

Getting enough people in the House to agree to the recent reauthorization was no easy feat, probably because when some of our elected officials read about undocumented immigrants deciding to report a rape and then being eligible for temporary legal immigration status, those elected officials only saw the words “undocumented immigrants.”

Say what you will about immigration, be it legal or illegal, documented or undocumented. No matter someone’s status, a rape is a rape, and no woman—no person—should live un-helped and without justice because of fear of being punished for standing up and saying, “What happened to me was not right.”

As Sun Managing Editor Amy Asman wrote in her article on the reauthorization this week, “According to the U.S. Justice Department, one in three Native women is raped over her lifetime, and the majority of sex crimes on reservations are committed by non-Indian men, who were heretofore immune from prosecution by tribal courts.”

If that isn’t an l-hole, I don’t know what is.

Look, I know that I’m skimming the surface here in my little column. I know there are financial and jurisdictional considerations that I’m breezing over like a gust on a spring day. But I can’t look at that statistic, at its background, and think, “Gee, that’s terrible. Too bad they’re Indians and the rest of the country can’t do anything about it.”

See, when I read those same words our legislators read—the ones that probably made them uncomfortable—what stood out to me were the words “rape” and “violence” and “crimes.”

That stuff needs to stop. Now. And any l-holes we can cinch tight need to be cinched. Obviously I’m not alone in thinking so, because the act—as of my writing—is sitting on the president’s desk for his signature.

If we, as a country, closed that l-hole, we can close others. We can put aside partisan squabbling and covert or overt fears of “the other”—because not everyone looks, lives, or loves the same as the majority—to make this country, and this world, a safer place for women. For all of us.

Even birds.

And even a-holes who allow l-holes into law.

The Canary is going to wash her beak out with soap. Send recommendations (not Lifebuoy) to canary@santamariasun.com.