RAINN Takes Action on Bills this Year in the States

RAINNews’ Sierra Scott sat down with Stefan Turkheimer, director of state legislative affairs, to talk about RAINN’s state policy work over the past year.

What are some laws that RAINN has worked on this past year in the states?

This past year, we have worked on many bills.

  • In Virginia, we worked on remote testimony for the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) grant.
  • In Florida, we worked on an incapacitation bill for the statutes of limitations (SOL).
  • In Georgia, we worked on statutes of limitations, funding for rape crisis centers, protections for employees who’ve been sexually assaulted, and changes to make it easier to prosecute repeat offenders for child sexual abuse material (CSAM).
  • In Mississippi, we worked on changing the definition of rape, removal of spousal defense to sexual assault, statutes of limitations, and changing the evidentiary requirements and got all those bills out of the House. In Indiana, we worked on updating the definition of rape and on the school/trauma to prison pipeline and helped to pass both bills.
  • In Ohio, we moved forward on the SANE issue, we’ve helped to advance the removal of the spousal rape defense, and worked on the statutes of limitations for criminal and civil cases.
  • In New Mexico, we worked on the trauma informed bill and were able to pass the bill to create the working group, the statute of limitations extension, and the issues of sex education.
  • In Wisconsin, we passed legislation to close the police rape loophole, passed the statute of limitations bill out of the Senate, and got a trauma informed bill ready for introduction.
  • Reactively, we are working in New York to pass an incapacitation bill in the closing days of the session.
  • We are working in Massachusetts on a victim’s bill of rights and in several states on a prohibition to use data collected from rape kits against a survivor.
  • In a number of states, we’ve worked to remove spousal exemptions to rape including Maryland, Tennessee, and West Virginia.

What have been some huge wins for RAINN and the policy team in the past year?

We eliminated the SOL on child sexual abuse material production in Florida. Also in Florida, our incapacitation bill has passed the senate. We passed a first in the nation remote testimony bill for sexual assault nurses in VA, which keeps nurses in their home facility to provide services instead of forcing them to travel way outside their district for days to testify, and created a grant program to keep SANEs in their jobs and recruit new ones.

In Georgia, we provided protections against retaliation for people who report being sexually assaulted at work.

In Mississippi, our changes to the definition of rape and our spousal defenses both cleared the house with unanimous votes.

In Wisconsin, our bill to extend the SOL has cleared the senate and we hope to introduce our trauma informed bill in the new session. Our bill to remove the LE rape exception has been signed by the GOV and became law.

In New Mexico, our trauma informed commission passed the legislature and we will convene this summer with the goal of creating a trauma informed training facility in the north of the state.

What are the goals and priorities for the next year in the states?

Our work in the states is to make the laws more survivor-centered and that work shall continue and expand. Building upon the successes we’ve achieved and the partnerships we’ve developed, we will work to make this country a more just place for survivors of sexual assault. That includes making sure that assailants are brought to justice, but also that the laws respect survivors and their choices. We will work to fund the support systems that survivors rely upon, and restore agency to their lives.

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