After a legislative session that felt particularly demanding as it juggled the impact of the pandemic in addition to a regular slate of concerns, here are just a few pieces of legislation that passed which are relevant to our work here at Signs of Hope.
This piece of legislation expanded the purpose of the Account for Aid for Victims of Domestic Violence. Previously, funds from this account could only be awarded to non-profit organizations that exclusively served victims of Domestic Violence. Now, organizations that serve victims of sexual violence are also eligible.
The bill increased requirements for services provided by these organizations, including the requirement that they provide prevention programs to the community. AB30 also makes some adjustments to grant amounts and rules governing what percentage of available funds be given to each county based on population.
The name of the account has been changed to include “or Sexual Assault” at the end to reflect this expansion.
This bill reinforces the changes of AB30 (changing the name of the account, making more organizations eligible for funding, changing rules for grant dispersal) and adds a few more.
Organizations that serve only sexual violence victims are exempted from the requirement of providing food and shelter to be eligible for funds. The definition of “victim of sexual assault” is revised to include language about “sexual violence”.
Perhaps most exciting, SB117 increases funding. The Account for Aid for Victims of Domestic Violence or Sexual Assault is funded by Marriage License fees, and this bill doubles the amount from each fee that goes to the account, up from $25 to $50.
This bill made a change to the Sexual Assault Statute, removing the gendered language “he or she” and replacing it with gender-neutral language. Although a small change to the text of the statute, it provides legal recognition within the law for gender non-conforming individuals.
This bill makes a small adjustment to the statute of limitations for criminal proceeding for sex trafficking, raising the limit from 4 years to 6 years after the crime took place.
This bill establishes the official definition of “victims of human trafficking”. It also requires the Administrator of the Division of Child and Family Services to develop a statewide plan for providing services to victims of human trafficking, establish a specialist position within the department, form a coalition to support that specialist in their work, and provide an online directory of available services for victims.
Existing state law allows survivors of childhood sexual abuse or exploitation (including child pornography) which took place before the victim turned 18 to sue for damages. This bill eliminates the 20 year statute of limitations, and applies it retroactively to cases where the 20 year limit had already passed. The bill also expands liability to a person who knew about, benefited from, or covered up sexual abuse or exploitation, making them liable for treble damages.