Public Policy

Download TAASA’s Legislative Agenda – 85th Session

The Texas Legislature meets January through May, in odd numbered years. Between sessions, TAASA, through its public policy committee, selects legislative priorities on which to focus advocacy efforts. During the legislative session, TAASA maintains a full-time presence at the capitol. Our work, while at the capitol, consists of testifying at public hearings, providing information to legislators about how new law might affect sexual assault survivors and providing updates on TAASA’s state legislative priorities.

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Download Report: Sexual Assaults in Texas Prisons

Every person, including individuals in jail or prison, deserves to be free from sexual violence. Sexual victimization is not included in a prison sentence, and it should not be part of the punishment. States bear legal responsibility under the Constitution and federal law for protecting prisoners in its facilities from sexual violence and other serious harm. Yet, people in prison are at heightened risk of sexual assault. In particular, the State of Texas and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) have failed to protect prisoners in their custody from sexual assaults. Despite more than a decade of federal legislative efforts and oversight by the U.S. Department of Justice—including the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA)—the prevalence of sexual assault remains high in Texas prisons. Several prisons in Texas have among the highest rates of sexual victimization in the nation. Regardless of claims that PREA standards are being implemented in Texas prisons, reports from prisoners themselves indicate that sexual assaults in Texas correctional facilities remain a serious problem. The alarming frequency of sexual assault in Texas prisons not only contributes to conditions in Texas facilities that are abhorrent to human dignity, but also violates the constitutional and human rights of prisoners in the TDCJ. 

The report urges the state to make efforts to comply with PREA standards across the state and to adopt other recommendations meant to reduce the number of sexual assaults taking place in state correctional facilities.

2015 Policy Victories

Public policy is a critical part of comprehensive and effective victim advocacy. Through public policy efforts, sexual assault laws and policies can be changed to expand sexual assault victim rights, enhance survivor services, promote prevention initiatives and hold sexual offenders accountable. We’d like to extend the warmest thanks to our strong coalition of survivors, advocates, allied organizations, and our partners in the Legislature. thanks to your help, changes to Texas law will include improvements to protective orders, crime victims’ compensation eligibility, statute of limitation reform, “revenge porn,” and campus sexual assault policies.

TAASA Legislative Agenda Items

HB 189 (Rep. Senfronia Thompson, Sen. Van Taylor) | Effective Sept. 1, 2015

Despite vigorous opposition by the Catholic Church, HB 189 extends the statute of limitation for civil liability arising from sexual abuse of children from 5 years to 15 years. It also eliminates the criminal statute of limitation for sexual assault when there is probable cause to believe the defendant sexually assaulted 5 or more victims. This bill’s civil provisions remove an unrealistic, arbitrary deadline for child victims to come forward, and the criminal provisions will assist prosecutors in charging repeat offenders whose attacks date back many years.

HB 1446 (Rep. Tony Dale, Sen. Jose Rodríguez) | Effective Sept. 1, 2015

Expands eligibility for forensic medical exam reimbursement from Crime Victims’ Compensation to sexual assault survivors who have not reported to law enforcement. Also expands eligibility for CVC’s 1-time relocation reimbursement to victims of stalking.

HB 1447 (Rep. Tony Dale, Sen. Jose Rodríguez) | Effective Sept. 1, 2015

Requires, at the time of an offender’s conviction for a sex offense or stalking, that the court inform the victim or the parent or guardian of a minor victim of the procedures for obtaining a protective order and for seeking assistance from a prosecutor to apply for a protective order. This bill helps ensure a level of protection for survivors extending beyond the court proceeding and any term of confinement.

Other Notable Bills

SB 1135 (Sen. Sylvia Garcia, Rep. Mary González) | Effective Sept. 1, 2015

Creates a new criminal offense for “revenge porn,” covering the intentional disclosure of visual material depicting a person nude or engaged in sexual conduct, without the depicted person’s consent and when the depicted person has a reasonable expectation that the material would remain private. The bill also creates a private civil cause of action for actual damages, exemplary damages, and injunctive relief for conduct constituting this offense.

SB 147 (Sen. Rodríguez, Rep. Hernandez) | Effective Sept. 1, 2015

Merges two separate criminal offenses for Violation of a Family Violence Protective Order and Violation of a Sexual Assault, Stalking, or Human Trafficking Protective Order. This bill strengthens accountability for SAPO violations by eliminating various unintentional discrepancies between the two violation statutes stemming from separate legislative processes during the last 10 years.

HB 699 (Rep. Nevárez, Sen. Uresti) | Effective June 19, 2015

Requires each public and private institution of higher education to have a policy addressing sexual assault separate from any other disciplinary or anti-discrimination policies; publish the policy in the student handbook, personnel handbook, and on a dedicated web page; and require all entering freshman and undergraduate transfer students to attend an orientation on the policy during their first terms. Also requires biennial review of the sexual assault policy by each institution and approval by its governing board.

Remember, you can always get more detailed information on these and other bills, including the full text, at http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/, or by contacting Christopher Kaiser, Director of Public Policy / General Counsel at ckaiser@taasa.org or (512) 474-7190 x38.

Vote Smart at http://votesmart.org/ .

Join Our Policy Alert List

Do you want to play a part in shaping Texas’s sexual violence policy? Attend a public policy committee meeting or ask us for individualized help to foster relationships with your elected officials. You can join our public policy alert email list by submitting the form below:

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