Survivors of Sexual Assault Championed in the 2021 Legislative Session

This year’s legislative session produced powerhouse, trauma-informed bills that will assist survivors of sexual assault. Our representatives should be commended for giving survivors support from our state to fight back and find alternate avenues that allow them to heal. While we should celebrate this support, we call upon legislators to continue the trend that we’ve been seeing in future sessions.

Bills given the most media attention centered around recent findings that students attending state colleges were not being given proper action or attention regarding their campus related sexual assault charges. Organizations such as Tigers Against Sexual Assault (TASA) at LSU formed rallies raising awareness about the crude treatment to survivors, which led to a breaking of the cycle that protected perpetrators and to new laws in support of survivors. The laws take seriously the claims of survivors and create heavy and immediate consequences for campus employees (including coaches) who ignore them. 

Another new law that has been spotlighted is one that allows victims of sexual violence to terminate their leases, similarly to victims of domestic violence. Now, those who’ve been assaulted and no longer feel safe or healthy where they live, can move without consequence or concern of property owners taking legal action against them, so long as protocol is followed. (see below)

A number of laws passed should garner as much attention as the previously stated, including HB492 which removes the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits on abusers who sexually assault minors. For children, it’s incredibly difficult to come forward about an abuser. A large percentage of survivors don’t disclose their abuse until years later, when they’re adults. Legislation such as this gives victims the opportunity to seek justice if they so choose, when they are safe and mentally and emotionally capable.

The following is a summary with brief explanations of laws passed that focus on sexual assault: 

HB 55: Allows survivors to petition a civil court for a protective order by simple written affirmation (i.e., merely the survivor’s signature with one witness signature), as opposed to the current requirement to have their signature notarized.

HB 375: Allows early residential lease termination to a sexual assault survivor in certain circumstances. (see below)

HB 379: Allows for award of punitive damages in a civil lawsuit upon proof that damages suffered were caused by sexual assault in the workplace.

HB 394: Requires each public college and university to publish on its website a quarterly security report that contains updated campus security policies and campus crime statistics. 

HB 409: Specifically defines who is required to report power-based violence on university campuses and imposes mandatory termination for those who fail to comply. 

HB 452: Creates the Louisiana Domestic Abuse Fatality Review Team to review the scope of DV related homicides and make recommendations on systemic changes, prevention, education, training, etc. 

HB 492: Removes any statute of limitations on civil lawsuits against a person for sexual abuse of a minor or for physical abuse of a minor resulting in permanent impairment, physical injury, or scarring.  Also provides a three-year period in which survivors of child sexual abuse can proceed with these claims that have heretofore been barred by the previous statute of limitations. 

SB 170: Creates office of human trafficking prevention and places it in the Governor office.  Also moves current commissions on human trafficking into the Governor’s office.

SB 211: Requires in-service training for teachers and other school personnel on adverse childhood experiences and trauma-informed education.

SB 230: Specifically defines who is required to report power-based violence on university campuses and imposes mandatory termination for those who fail to comply.  Also provides specific compliance measures including annual reports regarding power-based violence.

SB 232: Creates the Louisiana Power-Based Violence Review Panel to serve higher education institutions as an advisory body for Title IX and power-based violence issues.

If you have further questions, please do not hesitate to contact LaFASA to learn more details about these bills and how they affect survivors.

REQUIREMENTS FOR LEASE TERMINATION

In order to receive early termination, the lessee shall do ALL of the following:

  • Assert in writing to the lessor that the lessee is a victim of sexual assault and that the lessee seeks early termination under this law
  • Provide the “Reasonable Documentation” [see below] that lessee was victim of SA in Louisiana within the past sixty (60) days, provided that the SA occurred after the execution of the lease agreement
  • If the SA did not occur on the leased premises, then the lessee shall give a declaration of why continuing to reside in the leased premises may pose a threat to the victim’s safety
  • Assert in writing that the lessee will not knowingly and voluntarily permit the sexual offender further access to, visitation on, or occupancy of the lessee’s residential dwelling unit, any of which could result in eviction or termination of the lease.  (This provision is odd because the whole point of this article is to seek termination of the lease).
  • Otherwise meet or agree to fulfill all requirements of a lessee under the lease agreement.

If lessee fulfills all of the above, the lessor shall grant the lessee the requested early termination

  • If lessee requests early termination, the lessor shall terminate lease on mutually agreed upon date within thirty (30) days of the written request for termination; lessee must vacate.
  • Lessee is liable only for rent paid through the early termination date.  Any amount due shall be paid before the date lessee vacates the dwelling.
  • If the lessee or additional lessee is a SA offender named on “reasonable documentation” presented to the lessor, the lessor shall be entitled to immediate eviction of the offender upon presentation of the “reasonable documentation” to the court.
  • When there are multiple lessees party to a lease agreement, the entire lease shall terminate on the mutually agreed upon date.

“Reasonable Documentation”

  • A completed certification of sexual assault (as set forth below), signed under oath by a “qualified third-party (defined below)

OR

  • A Uniform Abuse Prevention Order (aka “protective order”)

“Qualified Third Party”

  • Program Director of a sexual assault center (defined R.S. 46:2187(2))
  • A sexual assault advocate (defined R.S. 46:2186(C)), provided the advocate is a licensed clinical social worker or licensed professional counselor
  • Any healthcare provider that conducted a forensic medical examination (defined R.S. 15:622(2))
  • Prosecuting attorney
  • Investigating law enforcement officer who has personal involvement in the investigation or prosecution of any criminal case relative to the sexual assault.

Written certification of sexual assault form to look like this . . . 

  • “(Name of qualified third party and, if applicable, the name of their sexual assault center, office, or agency)

I have suffered sexual assault as defined in La. R.S. 9:3261.2.

  • Briefly describe the incident giving rise to the claim of sexual assault:
               

The incident(s) that I rely on in support of this declaration occurred on the following date(s) and time(s): ____________ and at the following location(s):

______________________________________________________.

  • The incident(s) that I rely on in support of this declaration was/were
  • committed by the following person(s) (if known): ___________________________.
  • I state under the penalties provided in La. R.S. 14:125 that the foregoing is true and correct.  By submitting this statement, I do not waive any legally recognized privilege protecting any communications that I have with the agency or representative whose name appears below or with any other person or entity.  I understand that my obligation to pay rent does not end until the early termination date of my lease as decided by the lessor or until I vacate the premises upon receiving agreement by the lessor to terminate my obligations under the lease early.
  • Dated at ____________, Louisiana, this ______ day of ____ 20 ___.
  • Signature of Lessee
  • I verify under the penalties provided in La. R.S. 14:125 that I have provided services to the person whose signature appears above and that, based on information communicated to me by the person whose signature appears above, the individual has suffered sexual assault as defined by La. R.S. 9:3261.2, and that the individual informed me of the name of the alleged perpetrator of the actions (if known), giving rise to the claim, if known. This verification does not waive any legally recognized privilege that I, my agency, or any of its representatives have with the person whose signature appears above.
  • Dated this day of ___ , 20__ .

(Signature of qualified third party)

  • PRINTED NAME
  • (License number or organizational tax identification number)
  • (Organization name)
  • (Printed address)”

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