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Senate perfects Sexual Assault Survivors Bill of Rights

The Missouri Senate finally perfected legislation establishing certain rights for victims of sexual assault after an earlier amendment stymied its progress in the upper chamber. 

The perfection comes exactly one week after the Supreme Court of Missouri affirmed a lower court’s judgment concluding a 2020 law that sought to enshrine rights for sexual assault victims contained an unconstitutional provision. 

From Sen. Holly Thompson Rehder, a Republican from southeast Missouri, SB 775 would ensure a sexual assault victim has the right to consult with a representative of a rape crisis center, be offered a shower and fresh set of clothing, have an interpreter help communicate, and more. 

“This bill will do wonders to help victims of sexual assault on their path to becoming survivors. It’s the type of bill that truly helps people in our state and what motivated me to become a lawmaker in the first place,” Thompson Rehder told The Missouri Times. “I’m immensely grateful to all who worked diligently to reach common ground. We are one step closer to helping victims during a time that can be almost impossible to find the strength to help yourself.”

The bill was created following work done by the Missouri Rights of Victims of Sexual Assault Task Force last year with considerations made to alleviate the legal concerns. Sen. Jill Schupp, a Democrat, has also been instrumental on the bill. 

“We need this. This is really going to help people,” Schupp previously told The Missouri Times. 

Additionally, the bill contains rape shield protections.

“MOCADSV is grateful survivors will not need to wait much longer for enhancements to current law. SB 775, 751 & 640 includes multiple recommendations from the Missouri Rights of Victims of Sexual Assault Task Force. The bill has one more Senate vote before being sent to the House,” Jennifer Carter Dochler, public policy director for the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence (MOCADSV), told The Missouri Times. 

Before the legislative spring break, the bill seemingly became a casualty of the infighting between Republicans and the Conservative Caucus that has deadlocked the upper chamber this session. 

Sen. Rick Brattin had attempted to attach an amendment that would penalize educators who provide “obscene material” to a child. Thompson Rehder asked Brattin to withdraw the amendment, and during a press conference, chastised other Conservative Caucus members for belittling the legislation by calling it a “little bill” and “tweeting things that are petty and offensive to sexual assault victims and their families.” 

During Tuesday’s floor debate, Brattin’s amendment creating a misdemeanor offense for those associated with elementary or secondary schools if they knowingly provide students with “explicit sexual material” was added to the bill. The amendment defines such material as a pictorial or visual description showing masturbation, sexual intercourse, sadomasochistic abuse, and other things.