Legislative Wrap-Up

The 2018 Louisiana regular legislative session ended on May 18th short of the projected end date due to issues involved in balancing the state budget. The legislature opened an extraordinary session which is taking place from May 22nd through June 4th. Over 30 bills that directly impact sexual assault issues were introduced. Some passed, some failed, and some did not make it through the process in time. All in all, we can say there has been much success this year in our goal towards ending sexual assault and to support survivors.
SB147 was passed into law. It is a giant step in leveraging the power of those who use their influential positions to quiet the voice of their victim. Often times, when a victim does see his or her charge of assault come to fruition in the court system, the defendant/perpetrator will file a countersuit to defame the victim’s character, thereby scaring that person into dropping or settling the case for fear of his or her name being “dragged in the dirt.” You’ve probably witnessed this in national news, but unfortunately, it’s used on local levels, too; all it takes is enough money. Senator Morrell of New Orleans, saw the need to weight circumstances to favor the victim, and now, no case can be made to defame or slander the victim until all proceedings related to the assault charge are complete. If a claim is actually made against the survivor, and if the court finds that claim to be frivolous, the perpetrator must pay all court costs associated with the survivor defending his or her integrity. This victory should prove to be an enormous deterrent to efforts made to mute survivors.
HB524 is another bill that has been signed into law. It requires policies prohibiting sexual harassment and annual training on preventing sexual harassment for public and government employees. This should be titled the “#NoLongerSilentBill.” Why? Because the time is now to no longer remain silent and ignore the emotional and psychological ramifications of sexual harassment. Historical documents such as the preamble to the United States Declaration of Independence guarantees the “unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, every person has the right to “live, and to live in freedom and safety.” No person, regardless of gender, race, or sexual orientation, should have to accept a violation of their body as part of the “norm.” Stricter policies should be authorized and enforced. Policies should reach beyond state employees to require that all working persons complete an annual training on how to recognize and prevent sexual harassment.
HB282 would have prohibited anyone who has a stalking protective order against them or who has been convicted of stalking from possessing firearms. Fear, anxiety, and safety – these are three characteristics experienced by victims of stalking. In contradiction to this criminal activity being a glamorized or celebrated form of romanticism as portrayed in the media, stalking is a demonstration of power and control by the perpetrator. Stalking keeps the victim in a state of inferiority. Research has shown that minor stalking behaviors can potentially escalate into a violent reality. This bill failed to pass, which is unacceptable. We cannot accept this and must not allow another victim of stalking to become a statistic. Maybe in a future legislative session, a new life can be given to a form of HB282 and legislators will see the importance to pass it into law. Hopefully, no one will fall victim to assault or worse, due to a known stalker possessing a firearm.
We at LaFASA appreciate all who strive to end sexual violence. While legislation is important, it’s certainly not full proof. We offer free, statewide training for the workplace to prevent sexual harassment and assault, but if you are an individual who would like to be more knowledgeable, we have bystander and support pamphlets with good information to stop sexual assault and/or assist survivors. You can find them at this link: http://lafasa.org/main/publications_and_resources .

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