By Lisae C. Jordan, MCASA Executive Director & Counsel
One of MCASA’s most important responsibilities is to advocate for effective state public policies in Annapolis. MCASA supports legislation that promotes justice for survivors of sexual violence, accountability for offenders, and protection for the general public.
During the 2013 session, we helped pass long-time priority legislation to establish asset forfeiture in human trafficking cases. Funding for sexual assault programs and for legal services was maintained. These programs and services are vital to our mission of helping to ensure that victim/survivors of sexual violence have access to compassionate and expert care. We also supported successful improvements in crime victim rights; privacy protections; a bill to support frontline clinicians, educators, and police who wish to report child sexual abuse; and improved background checks for those caring for children with state funds. Download the PDF our full legislative report here
We would not be able to improve laws for survivors of sexual violence without the dedicated support and leadership of our elected officials. Delegate Kathleen Dumais, Vice-chair of the House Judiciary Committee, continues to be a strong advocate and leader in the field. Her judgments about when to stay strong and when to compromise help us continue to make progress for sexual assault survivors. First term legislator Delegate Luke Clippinger has emerged as a strong advocate for thoughtful policies that support sexual assault survivors and victims of child sexual abuse. In the Senate, Jamie Raskin, a senator from Montgomery County, continues to push for laws that help sexual violence survivors, and Senator Chris Shank continues to be a leader in efforts to respond to the needs of child abuse victims. Delegates Susan Lee, Kris Valderrama, and Michael Smigiel, and Senators Jennie Forehand and Nancy King each led the charge on bills to protect victims of human trafficking, children, and crime victims. Senator Brian Frosh and Delegate Guy Guzzone joined Delegate Dumais in the efforts to protect legal services, a vital resource for survivors. Other leaders and supporters are noted in our final legislative report. We appreciate their efforts on behalf of survivors.
There is still much to do. The 2013 legislative session addressed a number of major issues, including gun control, repeal of the death penalty, and strict liability for pit bulls. As a result of the time needed to address those policies, a number of bills that would respond to victim/survivors of sexual assault were delayed. We expect these issues to return next session and have already heard from policymakers who want to help. These include a bill to give victims of dating violence the increased safety that protective orders provide and a bill to allow rape victims to ask the courts to limit the parental rights of rapists when a child is conceived through rape.
The failure of the bill to allow rape victims to petition the courts to limit the parental rights of rapists was especially disappointing. In the brief few days since the end of the session, MCASA has already heard from women’s groups, legislators, and survivor advocates all expressing outrage that rapists still enjoy full parental rights in Maryland. People are appalled to learn that one legislator suggested it would be fine to publish a rape survivor’s name in the newspaper in adoption cases. The insensitivity to the experience of women and teens who have been raped was startling. Other legislators – including the Senate -- showed a willingness to act. We are confident that if we continue to work together we can pass a law that respects and supports rape survivors who make the difficult choice to bear a child conceived during rape.
MCASA will continue to work on public policy during the interim. It works closely with its member programs and invites all survivors and others interested in ending sexual violence to join our efforts. Together we can end sexual violence.
This article is a part of the Spring 2013 issue of Frontline.