Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Bill Redefining Rape Advances On Senate Floor

The Capitol dome in Helena, MT.
William Marcus
Montana Public Radio
Montana Capitol dome

Today, Montana Senators voted unanimously in support of a bill to change the state's legal definition of rape, removing the requirement of force for a perpetrator to be found guilty.

Senator Nels Swandal, a Republican from Wilsall, says Montana’s current definition of rape is old language left over from a time when women were seen with less value in society.

"A lot of the statutes and the elements of sex crimes came from property law, well before 1970 when these were written," says Swandal. "They just kind of came up when women were considered chattels and not equal. Now, society has evolved a great deal. We hope it has, but the laws have not evolved, and it is important we pass this for the victims and potential victims."

The bill’s sponsor, Missoula Democrat Diane Sands says her proposal updates what Montana law currently defines as rape  and replaces it with the military’s definition of consent.

"Consent means, words or overt actions indicating a freely given agreement to have sexual intercourse, or sexual conduct," says Sands.

Sands says if this language becomes law, more victims of rape will be able to successfully prosecute the crimes that happened to them. The bill advanced on the Senate floor today without opposing debate.

The Senate will vote on the legislation again Thursday. Another supporting vote will send the bill out of the Senate and into the House floor.

Corin Cates-Carney manages MTPR’s daily and long-term news projects. After spending more than five years living and reporting across Western and Central Montana, he became news director in early 2020.
Become a sustaining member for as low as $5/month
Make an annual or one-time donation to support MTPR
Pay an existing pledge or update your payment information
Related Content