Progress. Not in every way, but in many ways. That’s what happened this legislative session in Maryland’s General Assembly. MCASA’s advocacy helped pass bills that fundamentally change how Maryland responds to rape.
Delegate Kathleen Dumais and Senator Delores Kelley sponsored the “No Means No” bill that modernizes Maryland’s sexual assault statutes and makes it clear that survivors never have to physically resist sexual assault. This will mean that more sexual assault survivors will have access to the criminal justice system and that when someone says “no” to a sexual encounter, the law will back them up.
Senator Ed Kasemeyer and Delegate Aruna Miller led the charge to pass Senate Bill 734 creating dedicated funding for rape crisis centers. This will ensure that sexual assault survivors have access to the services they need to heal and recover. Our Program Spotlight feature highlights the efforts of the Sexual Assault/Spouse Abuse Resource Center (SARC) of Harford County, one of the rape crisis centers that will be supported by this bill.
Senate Bill 734 also creates a Sexual Assault Evidence Kit Policy and Funding Committee to improve Maryland’s rape kit access, collection, testing, tracking, and victim notification. Delegate Shelly Hettleman also helped in other efforts to improve how Maryland handles rape kits and will continue this mission next year.
Delegate Kirill Resnik and Senator Will Smith responded to the experience of an old friend who reported being devastated by the law’s refusal to call his rape a “rape” because of the body parts involved. As a result of HB647/SB944, all crimes involving penetration will be referred to as “rape” – in other words, rape is rape.
There were disappointments as well. A bill to expand introduction of evidence about past acts of sex crimes failed to get a vote. We are hopeful that the Rules Committee of the Judiciary will look at this issue before next session. The Rape Survivor Family Protection Act also failed to gain passage. This important bill will create a process (not a guarantee) that will permit a rapist’s parental rights to be terminated when a child is conceived through rape. There was a remarkable public outcry when this bill failed on the last day of session. MCASA remains committed to advocating for survivors and passing a fair and effective Rape Survivor Family Protection Act in the future.
MCASA thanks everyone who called, emailed, testified, and supported these bills, and appreciates the legislators who helped improve Maryland’s public policies to end sexual violence. To learn more about the 2017 legislative session, read our full legislative report here.
April was Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). This year, SAAM’s theme was Engaging New Voices. We worked to reach broader audiences, encourage prevention efforts and ultimately change the culture. It is vital to engage new groups of people to participate in these conversations and speak out against all forms of sexual violence.
College campuses across Maryland participated in Sexual Assault Awareness Month events and are home to some of Maryland’s most ardent “preventionistas”. In this quarter’s Prevention Corner feature, we highlight the campus prevention efforts of Anne Arundel Community College and how their campus is engaging new voices. Our College Consortium feature this quarter announces the re-launch of MCASA’s Speak Up Speak Out website. Check it out for information on how to be an engaged bystander and help prevent sexual violence on college campuses.
Other articles include our Safety Sync feature, where we unpack the issues discussed in the Netflix documentary film Audrie & Daisy and how technology, cyberbullying, and social media have a significant impact on sexual assault. An article on immigrant survivors of sexual violence discuss the unique challenges this underserved population faces accessing resources and reporting sexual assaults.
Stay strong. Stay feisty.
Changes in our country have prompted more people to speak up, speak out and become more involved in advocating for change. One way to help make a difference is to join MCASA and become a member. Your support makes progress happen. #WeAreTheChange
Lisae C. Jordan, Esq.
Executive Director and Counsel