Senate bill to help victims of sexual assault goes into effect Sunday

ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) – Several new bills in Missouri go into effect Sunday. One of them, Senate Bill 775focuses on expanding the rights of victims of sexual assault.

Matthew Huffman of the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence says this bill targets many different areas to help survivors.

“Multiple bills on sexual assault and domestic violence, child trafficking and child abuse that have been rolled into one,” Huffman says.

Huffman says part of the bill expands Missouri’s Rape Shield law. One of the changes is that it prevents courts from bringing up a witness’s story in a sexual assault trial.

“Not only is it incredibly traumatic, it has nothing to do with the case at hand,” Huffman said.

Another part of the bill amends the “Sexual Assault Victims Bill of Rights”.

This Bill of Rights has been in effect in Missouri since 2020.

Huffman says that under current law, there are specific professions required to give survivors a list of their rights.

These professions include medical providers, law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and public defenders.

However, Huffman says the new 2022 version that will go into effect will remove public defenders from that list.

“There was a legal action that said it was in fact a conflict of interest and that it was a violation of free speech for public defenders to be listed in those Here and so while this lawsuit was moving forward, the folks in the Legislature decided to go with it. go ahead and do that fix,” Huffman says.

Under this bill of rights, a victim of sexual assault has the right to:

• Consult an employee or volunteer at a rape crisis center;

• A forensic examination for sexual assault;

• A shower and a change of clothes;

• Ask to be examined by an appropriate medical provider or interviewed by a law enforcement officer of the gender chosen by the survivor, if appropriate;

• An interpreter who can communicate in the language of the sexual assault victim’s choice, to the extent reasonably available;

• Notification and basic outline of the options for choosing a reported evidence collection kit, an unreported evidence collection kit and an anonymous evidence collection kit;

• Notification on the evidence tracking system;

• Notification of entitlement to certain information considered a closed file, such as a full incident report; and

• To be free from intimidation, harassment and abuse in any related criminal or civil proceedings and to be entitled to reasonable protection from the offender.

Huffman says the coalition is beginning training across Missouri to ensure these policies are properly implemented.

“The quality of a policy depends on how people understand it and use it. Now that it’s going into effect, our job is still to figure out how to make sure it’s implemented properly and effectively,” Huffman says.

Senate Bill 775 goes into effect Sunday.

The full invoice is available here.

Norman D. Briggs