With most of her Senate colleagues, from both parties, standing sentry behind her, Sen. Holly Thompson Rehder said enough was enough.
The upper chamber has remained deadlocked on nearly every item that has come to the floor this session, particularly on congressional redistricting. But it came to a head Tuesday evening when a bipartisan bill from Thompson Rehder and Sen. Jill Schupp to help victims of sexual assault came to the floor.
Sen. Rick Brattin, a member of the Conservative Conservative, attempted to attach an amendment to the bill that would penalize educators who provide “obscene material” to a child.
Thompson Rehder asked Brattin to withdraw the amendment, saying it would kill the underlying bill. And after some back-and-forth, when it appeared that would not happen, Thompson Rehder laid the bill over.
“What do they have against fixing some of the problems that our state has in the way that we handle those who have been so horrifically abused? Why do they care so little about an issue that is life-changing for so many Missourians,” Thompson Rehder said Wednesday morning.
“And yes, this is personal for me. But perhaps that is exactly what it is going to take to stop this level of self-interested bullying that we have seen for weeks,” the Republican senator continued. “Because the people they are pushing around now are sexual assault survivors.”
Schupp and Thompson Rehder are championing the new “Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights” after a previous version, signed into law by Gov. Mike Parson in 2020, has been held up in court due to the legality of one section of the measure.
Their legislation 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.
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.
“We need this. This is really going to help people,” Schupp previously told The Missouri Times.
Additionally, the bill contains rape shield protections.
“Sexual assault survivors have waited too long. Let’s not delay any longer when there is such strong bipartisan support for this legislation,” Jennifer Carter Dochler, public policy director of the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, told The Missouri Times.
At the press conference Wednesday, Thompson Rehder specifically asked Brattin to withdraw his “poison pill amendment,” implored Sen. Denny Hoskins to “stop tweeting things that are petty and offensive to sexual assault victims and their familes,” and asked Sens. Mike Moon and Bill Eigel to stop launching filibusters with the reading of books.
She said Sen. Bob Onder referred to the legislation as “‘this little bill,’ as if guarding those who have been through a sexual assault is some nothing piece of legislation.”
“It is time the people of this state get more than a sound bite or a tweet or a Facebook ad,” Thompson Rehder said. “It’s time that we shine a light on the problem — and the problem is exactly what makes me and the majority of Missourians distrust and dislike politicians.”
Senate Majority Floor Leader Caleb Rowden and Minority Leader John Rizzo stood behind Thompson Rehder during her speech, along with most of the upper chamber.
“It’s time for us to end the empty negotiations and begging for civility with these guys behind closed doors. It’s time for the Missouri Senate to do its work,” Thompson Rehder said as the bells began to chime, calling legislators into session.
And with that, the Senate got underway. Hoskins is currently on the floor during what is meant to be the reading of the journal, comparing this legislation to the previous version that is still awaiting a court decision. He said he supports what was already passed.