House Bill 995 looks to redefine rape in Mississippi

COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI) – A bill going through the Legislature could make it easier to prosecute rape cases in Mississippi.

House Bill 995, authored by Representative Dana McLean of Columbus, would redefine the definition of rape.

Current law still has antiquated language regarding the character of the victim and does not consider spousal rape.

This is the second time McLean has tried to get such a bill passed.

It is now in conference. This means that three people from both the house and senate will come together to work out issues with the bill and try to come up with a version to be voted on.

“It’s just important we get up to date. It’s 2023,” said McLean.

District 39 State Representative Dana McLean saw the importance of changing the current rape statute in Mississippi after a victims’ rights group came to her.

In last year’s session, she filed a similar bill. It gained some traction, but not enough.

“This is one that was brought to me by a women’s victim rights group. We presented it last year and it passed overwhelmingly in the house. Did not come out of the senate last year. This year we are really hopeful we can get it through,” said McLean.

McLean said the current law has a very narrow definition of the crime, and only applies to females.

“Rape can occur with male or female. Regarding chaste character, it doesn’t matter. A victim is a victim. Also, this bill removes the spousal defense. Currently, we have a threshold exception for a spouse so if the victim is married there is a threshold defense for a spouse,” said McLean.

District Attorney Scott Colom has worked on several cases involving rape victims.

He said it’s something that they’ll never forget, so it’s important for Mississippi to give them the justice they deserve.

“It’s one of the most difficult conversations. They feel physically, mentally, and emotionally traumatized. It’s almost as if in my experience the best example I can come up with is that they have cancer they have to live with and what we do through prosecution is try to remove cancer that can ever do this to anybody else,” said Colom.

House Bill 995 would bring the current bill back in line with sexual assault and sexual battery statutes.

Both of these can carry up to 30 years in prison, but if the current bill’s language is changed and someone is found guilty of rape, they could face heavier jail time.

“Rape carries up to life so any change that makes it easier for us to prosecute rape I think that’s a positive step that rape is not and that there are strictest punishments possible for that type of criminal behavior,” said Colom.

If House Bill 995 is passed it could become effective immediately or on July 1 at the latest.

McLean said if for some reason it does not make it through she will file it again next session.

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