PAGE TWO Sexual Assault Bill A bill that began as an article in the Observer rape laws stands a good chance of passage by this year’s legislature. Sponsored by Rep. Debra Danburg, DHouston, HB 1730 \(and companion Senate Bill 966, sponsored by Sen. John term “rape” with “sexual assault” and, thereby, eliminate the questions of victim culpability or complicity that often arise in the defense against a rape charge. The bill would also make no gender distinctions. Currently, the perpetrator of a rape must be a man, and the victim must be a woman. In addition, the bill proposes to reduce the marital exemption from prosecution to only those couples legally living together in harmony. The bill is the brainchild of former Assistant U.S. Attorney General Michol O’Connor. O’Connor’s article in the Observer spawned a bill introduced by Rep. Hugo Berlanga, D-Corpus Christi, in the 1979 legislative session, which was narrowly defeated. Danburg, in reintroducing the legislation, told the House Judiciary Committee on April 19 that HB 1730 is designed “to move away from traditional and unrealistic notions of what constitutes sexual abuse.” Testifying on behalf of the bill, Attorney General Jim Mattox said, “With the term ‘rape,’ it does not happen to be the criminal that gets branded with the stigma as it is the victim.” Mattox recommended the additional deletion of the word “sexual” with all its “connotations” so that prosecution could be based simply on assault. Regarding the current marital exemptions, Mattox said, “I think we’ve reached a time in our society where an individual cannot be allowed to rape his wife. We cannot continue to treat our wives and children as chattel.” Susan Terrell of the Houston Rape Crisis Center reported to the committee that there was a 110% increase in reports of rape in Tallahassee, Florida, after a similar change in the law. There was also an increase in male reporting of sexual assault after the gender distinction was eliminated. More people are prosecuted under laws such as the one proposed by Danburg, and more people eventually receive counseling. In Michigan, there was a 90% increase in convictions in the year following a similar change in the law. Representatives of several other organizations, including Texas NOW, the Battered Women’s Center of Austin, and the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department, were present in support of the measure. Assistant District Attorney Jeanie Coltrin of Nueces County told the committee, “Rape is the only crime that requires the victim to wage battle during the crime.” Only one person appeared to speak in opposition to the bill. Donna Muldrew of Lubbock, a delegate to the White House Conference on Families, criticized the bill’s “invasion and critical attack on the sanctity of the family and the privacy of sexual conduct between husband and wife.” The bill was referred by the committee to a subcommittee chaired by Rep. Danburg, from which it stands a good chance of being reported favorably by the committee to the House. G. R. CORRECTION The April 22, 1983, article on “Right to Know” legislation should have read: “According to Tani Adams of the Texas Pesticide Project, Texas is the second largest user of pesticides in the United States. ‘Between ten and thirty pounds of pesticide per Texan is used,’ she says, `and among these are products known to cause birth defects, mutations, sterility, or cancer in humans or animals.’ ” TETXDB SERvER The Progressive Biweekly Vol. 75, No. 9 May 6, 1983 Publisher and Editor at Large: Ronnie Dugger Editor: Joe Holley Associate Editor: Geoffrey Rips Washington Correspondents: Amy Cunningham, Al Watkins Southern Correspondent: Bob Sherrill Staff Reporter: Kay Gunderson EDITORIAL ADVISORS’ BOARD: Frances Barton, Austin; Elroy Bode, Bandera; Chandler Davidson, Houston; Bob Eckhardt, Washington. D.C.; Sissy Farenthold, Houston; Ruperto Garcia, Austin; John Kenneth Galbraith. Cambridge, Mass.; Lawrence Goodwyn. Durham, N.C.; George Hendrick, Urbana, Ill.; Molly Ivins, Dallas; Larry L. King, Washington, D.C.; Maury Maverick, Jr.. San Antonio; Willie Morris, Oxford, Miss.; Kaye Northcott, Austin; James Presley, Texarkana. Tx.; Susan Reid. Austin; CONTRIBUTING WRITERS: Warren Burnett. Nina Butts, Jo Clifton. Craig CU. ford, John Henry Faulk, Bill Helmer. Jack Hopper, Amy Johnson, Laurence Jolidon, Mary Lenz, Matt Lyon, Greg Moses, Janie Paleschic, Laura Richardson. M. P. Rosenberg, Bob Sindermann, Jr., Paul Sweeney. Lawrence Walsh. CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS: Alan Pogue. Grant Fehr. Bob Clare, Russell Lee, Scott Van Osdol, Ronald Cortes. CONTRIBUTING ARTISTS: Berke Breathed, Jeff Danziger, Kevin Krenek, Ben Sargent, Mary Margaret Wade, Gail Woods. Incorporating the State Observer and the East Texas Democrat, which in turn incorporated the Austin Forum-Advocate. The Progressive Biweekly We will serve no group or party but will hew hard to the truth as we find it and the right as we see it. We are dedicated to the whole truth, to human values above all interests, to the rights of humankind as the foundation of democracy; we will take orders from none but our own conscience, and never will we overlook or misrepresent the truth to serve the interests of the powerfid or cater to the ignoble in the human spirit. Writers are responsible for their own work, but not for anything they have not themselves written, and in publishing them we do not necessarily imply that we agree with them because this is a journal of free voices. Business Manager: Frances Barton Advertising, Special Projects: Cliff Olofson Design and Layout: Alicia Daniel The Texas Observer One year rate for full-time students. S13. Airmail, foreign, group, and hulk rates on request. Microfilm editions available from Microfilming Corporation of America. Box 10, Sanford. N.C. 27330. Copyright 1983 by Texas Observer Publishing Company. All rights reserved. Material may not be reproduced without permission. POSTMASTER: Send form 3579 to: 600 West 9th Street, Austin, Texas 78701.
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