Nixon signs bill adding new protections for sexual assault victims
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — Gov. Jay Nixon signed bills sponsored by a pair of freshmen senators today that add new protections into Missouri law for sexual assault victims.
At the St. Joseph Youth Alliance in Buchanan County, Nixon signed several pieces of legislation including Senate Bills 321 and 341. SB 321, sponsored by freshman Republican Sen. Dan Hegeman, allows a victim of sexual assault to seek a court order of protection regardless of the perpetrator of the crime, closing a long loophole in Missouri law that limited a court’s capacity for protection orders.
SB 341, sponsored by Sen. Jeanie Riddle, closes the other loophole in Missouri law, and allows the Missouri Children’s Division new authority to intervene if an individual under the age of 14 is accused of sexual abuse. Prior to the bill’s signing, the division had limited capacity to intervene when one minor child was accused of abusing another.
“Each year, leaders gather in Jefferson City to work together toward building a Missouri that our children deserve,” Gov. Nixon said. “And there is nothing that unites us more than our commitment to Missouri’s children, especially when it comes to preventing child abuse… I appreciate the work of advocacy groups throughout the state, including Missouri Kids First, the St. Joseph Youth Alliance, members of the Missouri Taskforce on Prevention of Sexual Abuse of Children, and Sen. Riddle and Rep. Franklin for bringing this bipartisan legislation forward.”
Riddle said the bills represented what the “people expect” from Missouri’s lawmakers: bipartisan effort.
“It’s some of the best safety law we’ve put in place for children for years and there were a lot of groups working on this for a long time to try to identify and close these loopholes to take care of our kids in this state,” Riddle said. “It’s what people expect us to do, to work together for the people of the state and the kids of the state.”
Victim advocates applauded the passage of both bills. Lawmakers were near unanimous in their approval of the language during the legislative process, largely because the legislation gives the Children’s Division powers that many already thought they had.
“I appreciate the work of the General Assembly and the leadership of Gov. Nixon in keeping our children safe and helping victims and their families access the services they need,” said Tim Decker, Missouri Children’s Division Director. “I also deeply appreciate the work of Children’s Division staff for the work they do each and every day on the frontlines of preventing child abuse and neglect.”
Image courtesy of Emily van Schenkhof.