The beginning of 2020 is a time for reflection and for hope. The past year – and the past decade – have brought tremendous changes for survivors of sexual assault. There is greater recognition that sexual assault and sexual harassment not only happen, but are common experiences. There is better support for survivors and greater recognition that we need to improve how we react to survivors in our families, communities, and institutions.
The beginning of 2020 also brings the start of Maryland’s annual legislative session. MCASA supports legislation that promotes justice for survivors of sexual violence, accountability for offenders, and protection for the general public. MCASA represents the unified voice and combined energy of all of our members working to eliminate sexual violence in the State of Maryland.
We have work to do. Now is the time to eliminate the vestiges of sexist and homophobic code provisions. Maryland still allows marriage to be a defense to some sex crimes. This is rooted in the archaic believe that a wife is property and that consent to marriage is consent to sex. It is time to take this law off the books. “Sodomy” – consensual sexual acts – are also still criminalized. These provisions traditionally were used to harass and prosecute the GBLTQ+ community. This law should also be repealed. It is past time to enter the modern era and support the rights of all adults to consent or refuse sexual activities.
Our legislative priorities include other issues as well. Maryland has made important improvements to rape kit policies. But there is more to do. The State requires that hospitals share graphic, private details of sexual assault in order to be reimbursed for performing a forensic exam (rape kit). This invasion of privacy is disrespectful and unnecessary and needs to stop. Maryland has also made important criminal justice reforms through the Justice Reinvestment Act. These efforts need to expand to help survivors of sex trafficking and provide these victims with a process to vacate a conviction when a crime was committed as a result of being trafficked. Finally, a recent Court of Appeals decision illustrated the collision of law and common sense when a teenage girl was found to have violated child pornography laws by sexting some friends. The legislature needs to bring the code into the 21st century.
This edition of Frontline includes an article on sexting and a full copy of our legislative priorities. Also in our Prevention Corner we discuss economic empowerment for survivors of sexual violence as a strategy for preventing future violence. We also feature an article about how homeless youth are at a very high risk of experiencing human trafficking, and highlight the amazing work of The Bridge, Cecil County’s rape crisis and recovery center. In our College Consortium feature we examine hotspot mapping, an approach used to create environments that are protective from sexual violence.
We invite you to join us in our efforts to end sexual violence:
Together we can end sexual violence.
Lisae Jordan, Esq.
Executive Director & Counsel
Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault