The Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault's mission is to end sexual violence and improve support available to survivors of sexual harassment, abuse, and assault. Iowa's victim assistance programs and victim rights laws are strong, but heading into the 2020 legislative session we believe we can do better to meet the needs of survivors.
The following is an outline of the expansion of our legislative agenda for 2020 (not an exhaustive list, and subject to change at any time):
Funding for victim service programs. Additional funds allow more services to be available to survivors of sexual harassment, abuse, and assault - especially for survivors in rural areas. At a minimum, we believe funds should be restored to the 2017 fiscal year appropriation level of $6.7 million.
Ensuring victim rights as outlined in Iowa Code are enforceable. Iowa adopted a strong Victim Rights Act in 1998, but it is not enforceable. We have an opportunity to update Iowa Code to address concerns, gaps, and shortcomings. We must hold those in the criminal justice system accountable in following Iowa's victim rights statutes. Iowa Code Chapter 915.2 provides county attorneys and others within the criminal justice system with immunity if they do not meet the requirements of the law. This seems unfair. We will be recommending to legislators to repeal these immunity protections so that victims have a recourse if their rights are not being enforced.
Providing victims with more transparency, control, and clarity. We recommend Iowa adopt the legislative recommendations outlined in the Iowa Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI). This initiative was established to address concerns about untested sexual assault kits in Iowa. SAKI's 2020 recommendations include:
increasing the evidence retention statute from 10 years to 15 years;
requiring law enforcement to notify the victim and to obtain approval from the county attorney before destroying a kit;
providing victims with a form to declare their consent for the analysis of kit evidence
Victims deserve justice and protection from revictimization. This is why we will support legislation to eliminate the civil and criminal statute of limitations for sexual assault. The impacts of violence do not go away after 10 years; neither should the penalty. The impact of this type of trauma makes it difficult for survivors - particularly children - to talk about the details of the crime. Survivors deserve justice and healing, no matter how long it takes.
Provide employment protections for victims of sexual harassment, abuse, and assault. Victims of sexual violence face a number of challenges, including needing time to recover emotionally and physically from the trauma of what happened to them. Iowa law provides employment protection for victims who are called as witnesses in a criminal or civil trial, but not for time off while seeking treatment or implementing their safety plans. Iowa Code Chapter 915.23 should be expanded to protect survivors from employer retaliation while taking time off to attend court and parole board proceedings, protective order proceedings, provide victim impact statements, and participate in therapy or go to health appointments related to the victimization.
Enacting proactive policies that prevent sexual harassment, abuse, and assault before it occurs. This includes expanding middle school and high school health education curricula to include information about consent and dating violence. Additionally, we need to enact policies and programs that improve economic security and stability for women and provide women and girls with opportunities to strengthen their education, employment, and income outcomes that can reduce the risk of sexual violence victimization. These policies should include ensuring access to affordable quality childcare and making paid family and medical leave a reality for our most vulnerable citizens.
Questions about our legislative agenda? Contact us! And don't forget to mark your calendar for our Advocacy Day at the Capitol, which will take place in Des Moines on March 4, 2020.