MCASA continued to advocate on behalf of survivors of all types of sexual violence during the legislative session that ended in April. We advocated for bills that addressed child sexual abuse, sex trafficking, sexual harassment, rape, and other forms of sexual exploitation. Our goal is to improve systems at every level. Survivors should have access to justice, services, and support without regard to their immigration status, gender identity, class, race, age, or choice to participate in the criminal or civil justice systems. Sexual violence must be condemned no matter who the assailant is.
This year’s state legislative session brought important progress on many issues. The Workplace Harassment bill creates major statutory reforms that will empower thousands of victims of sexual harassment in the workplace (HB679/SB872). This bill is one of many that Speaker Busch championed during his legislative career. MCASA mourns the loss of Mike Busch and honors him as an effective and committed advocate for women. Additionally, a bill was enacted to prevent HIV for rape victims (SB657/HB1249). This seems like an obviously correct policy, but was defeated last session and required strong advocacy to pass this year.
Other bills regarding sexual assault forensic exams (often called “rape kits”) also passed. Maryland will have mandatory rape kit testing and the funds to support this work. However, we were very disappointed that the Governor’s Office of Crime Control & Prevention opposed efforts to protect victim privacy in HB1248/SB933. We are committed to addressing these issues in the future. MCASA also spent considerable resources this session on the issue of sex trafficking. We were pleased that a bill creating a regional navigator system and services for youth survivors passed and that efforts to update the criminal code were successful. Disappointingly, the bill expanding the ability of survivors to vacate convictions died in the Judicial Proceedings Committee despite the support of both advocates for survivors and the Maryland State’s Attorneys Association.
Marriage should not be a defense to sex crimes. Maryland does not agree and still permits sex offenses against spouses as a matter of law. Sadly, the bill to strike these archaic and insulting provisions did not pass (HB958).
Overall the session was a strong one and it is clear that many of the newly elected legislators care about responding to sexual violence and helping survivors. It is also gratifying to have so many women on the House Judiciary Committee who are committed to ending sexual assault. The presence of these legislators in Annapolis will help make sure sexual assault is not minimized and that the needs of survivors are heard. To view MCASA’s 2019 Legislative Report click here.
Outside of session, we have wrapped up another very successful #SAAM! MCASA participated in several SAAM events throughout Maryland, including events at Towson University, University of Maryland, Blake High School, Choose Respect Montgomery County, Ft. Meade, and at many other community venues. After such a whirlwind month, we want to remind our service providers and other field professionals to be mindful in practicing self-care. It is important to recharge and take care of yourself in order to maintain the resiliency and strength needed to care and advocate for others. If you want to learn more about self-care, check out this article from the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Stay fierce and strong,
Lisae C. Jordan, Esq.
Executive Director & Counsel
Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault