Democratic Montana Gov. Steve Bullock signed six new sexual assault bills Monday that require defendants to prove they received consent to avoid prosecution for rape or sexual assault.
Defendants must establish that they received “words or overt actions indicating a freely given agreement to have sexual intercourse,” the law states, but it makes no requirements for victims to establish a lack of consent or a withdrawal of consent. The bills also eliminate the requirement that an assault involve force for it to be defined as rape, according to a Monday statement from Bullock.
“Most of these laws were passed in the 1970s when we had a very different idea of what sexual assault was,” Democratic Sen. Diane Sands told the Missoulian. “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.”
Under previous Montana law, victims were required to prove they had been forcibly raped or assaulted, but the updated law requires defendants to provide proof of consent or else be prosecuted for sex crimes, many of which carry a life sentence, the Missoulian reported Monday.
The legislation also lists several situations in which a victim is unable to give consent, including if the victim has a mental disorder or was incapacitated and if the victim is “deceived” into granting consent.
“This was a long process to get rid of the societal bias that we’ve seen historically,” State Attorney General Tim Fox told the Missoulian. “We’re not done yet. But this is a momentous occasion.”
Montana’s House of Representatives passed the legislation 148-2, with only Republican Reps. Brad Tschida and Adam Rosendale in opposition.
Other bills in the package created a process for terminating rights of parents who committed rape, revised registrations on the Sexual and Violent Offender Registry, and increased the statute of limitations from 10 to 20 years for sex crimes against children.
Bullock’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Daily Caller News Foundation.
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