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Alvarado-Gil brings fight for rape legislation to Stan State
Alvarado-Gil at Stan State
State Sen. Marie Alvarado-Gil speaks at Stanislaus State about legislation she authored that would classify rape of an unconscious person as a violent crime. Alvarado-Gil was part of a panel discussion that also included Jennifer Staffero, Brandy Spencer, Camryn Loveall, Clarissa Lonn, Chief Clint Strode (JOE CORTEZ/The Journal).

Marie Alvarado-Gil has been a state Senator for just a matter of months, but she’s already savvy enough to know that Senate Bill 268 has little chance of making it out of committee and onto the Senate floor for full vote.

But that’s not about to stop the Democrat from Jackson from pursuing legislation — she authored SB 268 — that classifies rape of an unconscious person a violent crime.

Alvarado-Gil, herself a survivor of sexual assault, was on hand Friday at Stanislaus State, for a panel discussion that put the spotlight on her bill and sexual assault in general.

“Unfortunately, the public safety committee is staffed with four, very progressive Democrats and (Republican) Sen. Rosalice Ochoa Bogh,” said Alvarado-Gil, pointing out that her colleagues are not likely to support legislation that enhances sentences. “So, we haven’t even been told if they’re going to hear our bill. We won’t until probably Monday. Now, the chair, Sen. (Alisha) Wahab, can decide that this is not worth hearing and we won’t get a hearing on it, which means I have to go into another year fighting this. And I will.

“This will be the hill that I die on.”

Sharing the dais with Alvarado-Gil were Jennifer Staffero, a licensed clinical social worker and the clinical lead counselor for counseling and psychological services at CSUS; Brandy Spencer, director of youth and prevention services for Haven Women’s Center; student representative Camrynn Loveall, associate dean of students Clarissa Lonn; and Chief Clint Strode of the CSUS police department.

Spencer pointed out that young adults, some living away from home for the first time, are particularly vulnerable as they navigate new social constructs.

“There’s definitely a unique intersection for students who enter what we call the red zone, and that’s an increased risk of sexual assault, usually around the start of the school year,” said Spencer. “And if we think, the students for the first time are leaving their safety units — their family homes — and they’re trying new things, so there’s an abundance of risk-taking behaviors. And it would be very difficult to not feel that kind of shame — ‘Oh, I drank too much.’ A lot of that is informed by a rape culture that perpetuates victim blaming.”

Existing law classifies certain criminal offenses as a “violent felony” for the purposes of sentencing enhancements, and steeper consequences for those with prior convictions. 

Rape already is classified a violent felony when committed against a person’s will by means of force, violence, duress, menace, fear, or threat of violent retaliation.

“I’m a survivor of childhood molestation,” said Alvarado-Gil, who said she was assaulted when she was in elementary school. “If we want to be a society that protects our most vulnerable, we have to have an infrastructure that we can fall back on. People want to live in safe communities and there’s no question about rape being one of the most violent and vile crimes.”

Faced with sexual assault, Strode stressed that safety is of the utmost importance.

“Number one, I would say they need to address their personal safety,” said Strode. “Get to someplace safe and make sure their physical security and health is being addressed. Afterwards, of course, we’d like for them to call us. There are certain items of evidence that we want to make sure don’t get lost. And we want to make sure that their mental health is taken into consideration.”