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on Sexual Assault

TAASA policy update

Posted by: "Victoria Camp" [ email ]   torieloo

Tue Mar 6, 2007 12:27 pm (PST)

HB 8, also known as Jessica's Law, passed the House today after a turbulent
debate. If you recall, debate started last week, but was postponed after
about 3 hours because legislators didn't feel they had enough information
about the bill. When the debate continued on Monday, the first order of the
day was to substitute an entirely new version of the bill! The final
version of the bill includes the following:

The creation of a new offense called "Continuous Abuse of a Child." This
offense is defined as more than one sex act committed against a victim
younger than 14 over a period of 30 days or more. The first offense would
carry 25 to 99 years in prison. If an offender was released and later
convicted of the same crime again, he or she would face life without parole
or the death penalty.

In addition, an amendment was included to eliminate the statute of
limitations for child sexual abuse.

Provisions that were in the original draft of HB 8 that are no longer in the
bill include:

--no parole for first time offense of a 'sexually violent offense'

--mandatory lifetime in prison without parole with death penalty option for
a 2nd offense of a 'sexually violent offense'

--Active GPS monitoring of civilly committed sex offenders

At the end of the day, TAASA continues to support HB 8, although we do have
some reservations, shared by some of you, about the death penalty provision.

Other bills of interest:

SB 136 - would require the Texas School Safety Center to develop an online
Internet Safety curriculum for use by Texas schools

HB2059 - would require employers to grant time off to employees who are
victims of family violence or a violent felony offense.

Adult entertainment fee and funding for sexual assault services and programs

HB 1751 has been filed in the House and referred to committee. We hope to
have a hearing in the next week or two. Maybe during the TAASA Annual
Conference! This bill would allow for the collection of funds from
strip-clubs. Another bill will be filed outlining how the money that is
collected should be spent.

Items are ranked in order of priority as voted on by the TAASA membership.

1. Maintain funding for sexual assault services statewide.

2. Create emergency protective orders for sexual assault victims.
Currently, sexual assault survivors are NOT able to apply for emergency protective orders unless the perpetrator was an intimate partner.  This legislation would give sexual assault survivors access to ALL types of protective orders no matter the relationship between the victim and offender.
3. Eliminate the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse.
The current statute of limitations is 10 years after the 18th birthday of the child. In many instances, this is not enough time for a child to come forward and report the abuse.  By eliminating the statute of limitations, Texas will be ensuring that child predators are never `off the hook.'
4. Require hospitals to offer and provide a prescription for emergency contraception, if desired by the rape survivor and not medically contraindicated. Currently, over 50 percent of Texas hospitals will not provide a prescription for emergency contraception to a rape survivor who requests one. Emergency contraception is a safe and effective means to prevent pregnancy.
Emergency contraception is more effective the sooner it is taken.
Because of this time limitation and the desire to reduce unnecessary physician visits immediately after an assault, a prescription for EC should be provided at the hospital to rape survivors who desire it is not medically contraindicated.
5. Provide and require a standardized sexual assault questionnaire to be used by law enforcement during investigations.  The questionnaire would serve as an investigational tool by directing the officers to gather specific details of the crime.  The questionnaire would meet requirements for the FBI's Violent Criminal Apprehension Program and would assist law enforcement professionals working on unsolved rapes across the country.

6. Amend the Government Code to require law enforcement agencies to report specific information about sexual assault for statewide data collection, analysis and reporting.  The annual number of sexual assaults reported to law enforcement is the ONLY systematic data collected about sexual assault in the State of Texas. It is not possible to measure the effectiveness of prevention and intervention efforts unless more detailed data is collected about sexual assault in Texas.

7. Move voyeurism crimes from the Disorderly Conduct section to the Sexual Offenses section of the Texas Penal Code.  
This will streamline the Penal Code for law enforcement and prosecutors.  Voyeurism (currently TPC 41.01(a)11) is a sexually motivated behavior and should be listed with Sexual Offenses in Chapter 22.

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