Despite the shortened legislative session, I am proud of the work accomplished by my colleagues in Jefferson City during the past five months. Over the course of the 2020 legislative session, lawmakers truly agreed and finally passed more than 45 legislative measures. In this week’s report, I would like to highlight one of those measures that I believe will make a difference in our state.
Senate Bill 569 seeks to make changes to state law in relation to victims of sexual offenses. Unfortunately, after someone is victimized, levels of bureaucracy and unnecessary legal procedures can often add to their trauma, not to mention more time in and out of courtrooms. Senate Bill 569 focuses more on the victim rather than the accused.
This new law would create the Justice for Survivors Act and direct the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services to establish a statewide telehealth network for forensic examinations of victims of sexual offenses by July 1, 2022. Through this network, qualified Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners would be able to collect evidence following an attack. Through SB 569, hospitals without a certified SANE on staff would be able to seek professional consultation through the telehealth network, allowing hospitals access to appropriate professional assistance.
Senate Bill 569 would also create the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights as well as establish new rules that govern the tracking of evidence collection kits. I believe the lack of oversight over these kits has eluded law enforcement and prosecutors for too long. In any crime, evidence collection is something that needs to be done swiftly. From my perspective, the more time that passes, the more likely a criminal will remain on the loose. This is simply unacceptable.
In my opinion, this legislation demonstrates our state’s commitment to supporting victims of sexual assault. As the governor reviews SB 569, I am hopeful he will decide to sign this important legislation into law.