The element of fear of immediate and unlawful bodily injury has two components, one subjective and one objective. The subjective component asks whether a victim genuinely entertained a fear of immediate and unlawful bodily injury sufficient to induce her to submit to sexual intercourse against her will. In order to satisfy this component, the extent or seriousness of the injury feared is immaterial. The kind of physical force that may induce fear in the mind of a woman is immaterial. It may consist in the taking of indecent liberties or of embracing and kissing her against her will. In addition, the prosecution must satisfy the objective component, which asks whether the victim's fear was reasonable under the circumstances, or, if unreasonable, whether the perpetrator knew of the victim's subjective fear and took advantage of it. The particular means by which fear is imparted is not an element of rape.
The eve of her wedding, the bride decided to sleep at the house of a family friend. The family friend was also a seamstress and made her wedding dress. She met the seamstress’ fiance that night and noticed that he was little drunk. In the middle of the night, the bride was awakened by the fiance who approached her as she slept on the living room floor, removed her pants, fondled her buttocks, and had sexual intercourse with her. She did not consent to any sexual contact or intercourse but did not fight the assailant because due to her fear, she froze. A case for rape was filed and the fiance admitted that they had sexual intercourse without the bride’s consent. The jury found defendant guilty of rape. On appeal, the Court of Appeal reversed, finding the evidence insufficient to show that sexual intercourse was accomplished by means of force or fear of immediate and unlawful bodily injury, and reducing the conviction to sexual battery. The case was appealed to the Supreme Court of California.
Should the accused be convicted of rape?
The court reversed the judgment of the lower court and remanded the case for further proceedings, concluding that under the totality of the circumstances, the evidence was sufficient to support the rape conviction because there was substantial evidence that the victim genuinely feared immediate and unlawful bodily injury and there was substantial evidence that her fear was reasonable. The court focused on a 1980 amendment to Cal. Penal Code § 261 to eliminate the requirement that a rape victim resist the attacker, noting that some victims respond by "freezing." Substantial evidence proved the element of fear of immediate and unlawful bodily harm both subjectively and objectively because testimony of the victim and the investigating officer showed that the victim was fearful, and because the circumstances of the attack showed that her fear was reasonable.