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House Sends Governor Bill to Expand Rape Definition

April 30, 1998
By: Lucas Wall
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - A bill that would classify using drugs to have sex with someone as rape is on its way to Gov. Mel Carnahan.

Current law requires the use of physical force for someone to be charged with rape. The bill would expand that definition to include the use of a substance administered without a victim's consent that renders the victim incapable of making an informed consent to sexual intercourse.

Rep. Vicky Wilson, D-Columbia, sponsored the bill after she learned drugging someone and then having sex without that person's consent is currently classified as sexual assault. Students from Columbia have expressed concern to Wilson about that classification, she said.

"I think it offers not only a stronger message about the seriousness of rape and the use of drugs to accomplish that, but I think it also sends a message to potential victims about methods that might be used against them," Wilson said Thursday after the House accepted Senate amendments.

Sexual assault carries a maximum penalty of seven years in prison, while someone convicted of rape faces five years to life in prison.

"It's a deterrent because it lets people know that this is serious," Wilson said. "This is not something someone can just play around with."

Sen. Anita Yeckel, R-St. Louis County, handled the bill in the Senate. She said she heard about the use of "date-rape drugs" like Rohypnol from her 23-year-old daughter. Such drugs are usually slipped into someone's drink, incapacitating them and making them vulnerable to unwanted sexual intercourse.

"It is rape because you've impaired their judgment in some way," Yeckel said. She said she hopes the bill will increase awareness about the crime.

Some unusual coalitions formed to support the bill. Kerry Messer, president of the Missouri Family Network, a conservative organization devoted to defending traditional families, worked on the bill with Wilson, one of the House's most liberal members.

Messer said using drugs to have sex with someone is forcible compulsion and it's appropriate the definition of rape recognize that. He said he hopes word will get out Missouri is cracking down on this serious crime.

It was a productive Thursday for Wilson, who also had a bill requiring pregnant women be screened for Hepatitis B finally approved and sent to Carnahan. These are the first two bills the freshman legislator has had passed.

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