90 days of great strides and tremendous success. This year’s legislative session has truly been a whirlwind of monumental progress as several pieces of legislation passed that will provide justice to survivors and hold offenders accountable in Maryland. In this quarter’s issue of Frontline, we reflect on this progress as Marylanders embraced their voices and advocated on behalf of survivors in our state. We kicked off this year’s session with a major victory as the Rape Survivor Family Protection Act passed within the first month of session and was signed into law as an emergency bill in February. This law allows rape victims who become pregnant as a result of their rape a remedy to terminate the parental rights of the rapist. The passing of this bill has been a long-awaited victory and will impact the lives of survivors in Maryland.
Remarkable progress was made in the Maryland General Assembly this year with the passing of House Bill 301, which will expand admissibility of prior acts of sexual abuse or sexual assault in later sex crimes cases. We also continued to advocate for justice for survivors on college campuses with the passing of Senate Bill 607, which codifies fair process in college sexual assault proceedings. In the last moments of legislative session, extraordinary headway was made as Senate Bill 769 passed with 15 minutes to spare! This bill will establish sextortion as a crime in the state of Maryland.
In the midst of the #MeToo movement, bills that combat sexual harassment advanced through the Maryland General Assembly, most notably the passing of the Disclosing Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Act of 2018. Senator Craig Zucker and Delegate Kris Valderrama sponsored this bill, which will protect rights of employees and shine a light on the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace.
While we had many successes during session, there were some disappointments as well. A bill that would provide survivors with access to HIV prophylaxis when appropriate did not make it through this year. MCASA remains committed to advocating for this bill in the future and will continue to fight for rape survivors to have access to HIV prevention.
MCASA thanks everyone who called, emailed, testified, and supported these bills during this busy legislative session. We also want to take a moment to express appreciation for the legislators who helped move important policies forward that support survivors and work to end sexual violence. To learn more about the 2018 legislative session, read our full legislative final report here.
Embracing our voices and standing up for survivors’ rights was an essential message of this year’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) campaign. It is important that we convey our support for survivors and believe their stories. This year’s SAAM theme placed a special focus on the importance of embracing our voices to be agents of change to work to prevent sexual violence in our communities. In this issue, our Prevention Corner column unpacks this year’s SAAM theme and provides some ways to stay engaged with prevention efforts throughout the year. In our College Consortium feature, we discuss the importance of evaluating prevention program efforts on campus and highlight a new technical assistance tool from MCASA, Sexual Assault Prevention Evaluation Guide for Colleges and Universities.
With the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, many survivors are using this opportunity to embrace their voices and share their stories. In this quarter’s Safety Sync column, we examine the power that social media and hashtags have in spreading awareness about sexual violence. Although these movements have gained significant momentum over the course of the last few months, some survivors have been left out of the conversation, including incarcerated survivors. In this issue, we discuss the importance of advocating for incarcerated survivors and addressing the issue of prison rape culture in our prevention efforts.
In every issue of Frontline, we highlight the excellent work of the local rape crisis centers throughout the state of Maryland. Our Program Spotlight section this quarter showcases the efforts of DV/SAC of Prince George’s County and their important programs and services for survivors of sexual assault.
Significant strides have been made this legislative session, but the fight is far from over. Sexual violence continues to be a major issue affecting our state and we need your continued support to help make a difference in the lives of survivors. One way you can make a difference and support our ongoing advocacy is to become a member of MCASA or make a donation. Your voice and actions make progress happen.
from the Frontlines,
Lisae C. Jordan, Esq.
Executive Director & Counsel
Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault