MCASA Legislative Report – A Strong Session for Survivors
By Lisae C Jordan, Esquire, 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 2014 session, we made great strides in improving laws to support sexual assault survivors.
Rape by Proxy.
The abhorrent new crime of “rape by proxy” was recognized as a felony thanks to the strong advocacy of Senator Brian Frosh and Delegate Kathleen Dumais. This bill will give prosecutors a strong tool to use when perpetrators steal a victim’s identity or social media profiles and post solicitations stating that the victim wants to be sexually assaulted.
SAFE Exam Access.
New legislation will require all hospitals with emergency rooms to have a protocol to provide Sexual Assault Forensic Exams (SAFEs) to survivors and a planning committee will be established to improve access to these exams. MCASA will continue to advocate for protocols that do not require rape victims to seek out the “correct” hospital for an exam. We are grateful to Delegate Ariana Kelly for introducing this legislation and refusing to wait any longer to address the problem.
Persons in Authority.
After over a decade of advocacy, we closed some significant gaps in laws addressing persons in authority who sexually exploit teenagers in their care. Senator Jamie Raskin and Delegate Luke Clippinger fought for this bill in the face of polarizing commentary by critics who attacked legislators for the first time this (election) year. We appreciate the progress that was made and are grateful legislators did not simply abandon the bill in the face of personal attacks.
Protective & Peace Orders – Standard of Proof.
With the leadership of the administration and Lt. Governor Brown, we helped lower the standard of proof in peace and protective order cases. This will improve access to these civil orders which provide fundamental protection to survivors of sexual assault in both intimate partner violence cases and cases involving assailants who are not family members.
There were also some disappointments. The Rape Survivor Family Protection Act was not voted on by the House Judiciary Committee again this session. This bill would have allowed rape survivors to petition to limit the parental rights of the rapist when a child was conceived through rape. The bill sailed through the Senate, had over half of the House of Delegates as co-sponsors, and had the support of the majority of the Judiciary Committee. But without a vote, a bill cannot move and -- once again -- rape survivors are left without the support they need from Maryland’s law. The bill’s lead sponsors, Delegate Kathleen Dumais and Senator Jamie Raskin, have vowed to continue to champion this legislation next session.
The bill to move dating and sexual violence out of the peace order statute and into the protective order statute also failed to get a vote in the Judiciary Committee after passing the Senate. This bill is an important piece of modernizing Maryland’s protective order policy, and we will continue to advocate for it in the future. The sponsors, Senator Chris Shank and Delegate Kathleen Dumais, are strong advocates for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, and we are grateful for their continued work on this bill. Other bills that we will continue to fight for include the bill to increase punishment for criminals who fondle people during a burglary and a bill to allow longer probation for sex offenders convicted of child pornography or soliciting children over the Internet.
Overall, however, we made tremendous progress this session. Thank you to everyone who made calls, sent emails, visited legislators, and advocated for survivors. It is an honor for MCASA to advocate on behalf of sexual assault survivors and the programs that serve them. A full list of MCASA legislative priorities and outcomes can be found here