Montana Just Updated Rape Laws To Include Cases When Victims Don't Fight Back

The bill passed almost unanimously.
Montana Governor Steve Bullock speaking on November 21, 2016. 
Montana Governor Steve Bullock speaking on November 21, 2016. 

A new Montana bill recently expanded the definition of rape to include cases in which victims did not explicitly fight against their attackers

On Monday, Montana Governor Steve Bullock signed Senate Bill 29 into law after state legislators passed it almost unanimously (148-2), with only two Republican House members opposing the statute. According to local outlet The Missoulian, the bill changed the legal definition of sexual assault and rape in Montana. The bill “removes the requirement of force from the definition of ‘consent.’”

Before Monday, survivors had to prove that they fought back or were threatened into submission during their assault in order to prosecute their attackers. That definition of rape completely left out cases where survivors were drugged or the attacker was in a position of authority that prevented the victim from speaking up. Montana’s original definition of assault also allowed the attacker to claim consent was given if the victim was married to or in a previous relationship with their attacker. 

Sen. Diane Sands told The Missoulian that many of the state’s sexual assault laws were completely outdated. 

“Most of these laws were passed in the 1970s when we had a very different idea of what sexual assault was. We have had many cases of a sexual assault that everyone agrees was a sexual assault [but] isn’t a sexual assault under the law,” she said. “We looked at really what it takes to convict someone of sexual assault. I’m very pleased we could actually pass these pieces of legislation, in most cases pretty much unanimously.” 

Along with expanding the definition of assault, Senate Bill 29 creates a more comprehensive conversation about sexual crimes because it takes into account the fight or flight experience so many survivors encounter. If a person doesn’t fight back during their attack, their assault can still be considered assault under the new statute. 

Head over the The Missoulian to read more about Senate Bill 29.