An Ohio bill that would eliminate spousal exceptions for rape is struggling to gain bipartisan support.
Ohio’s rape law was amended in 1986 to include spousal rape but only if there is a “force or threat of force.”
“So cases where a husband drugs and rapes his wife do not qualify,” explained Patricia Falk, professor at the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law who specializes in rape law.
Falk explained that Ohio is one of just 13 states in the country that have not completely abolished spousal rape exemptions. Her research has documented many cases of spousal drugging and rape in the state.
“We still have this vestige from a bygone era in our rape law and it really has no place in 2017 Ohio,” Falk said.
In 2015 she was consulted on the first push to eliminate the spousal rape exemption spearheaded by Rep. Greta Johnson (D-Akron). That bill was only granted one committee hearing by majority lawmakers.
Victim advocates like Linda Johanek, CEO Domestic Violence and Child Advocacy Center, argue that all forms of rape should be treated equally.
“Spousal rape is a crime no matter what,” Johanek said.
On Friday, Rep. Johnson introduced H.B. 97, which would amend the Ohio Revised Code to eliminate the spousal exceptions for the offenses of rape, sexual battery, unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, gross sexual imposition, sexual imposition, importuning, and public indecency. It would also permit a person to testify against the person's spouse in a prosecution for any of those offenses.
But Johanek was disheartened to see that just 17 lawmakers -- and only democrats -- had signed on to co-sponsor the bill.
“Something is very wrong with that and that needs to change,” Johnson said.
News 5 reached out to a spokesperson for Ohio Speaker of the House Clifford A. Rosenberger (R-Clarksville) to comment on the legislation but did not receive a response.