NCSL's Women's Legislative Network News for May 2015


Women's Legislative Network



Jane Powdrell-CulbertI hope that many of you enjoyed productive legislative sessions and that spring has arrived in your states. If there is any information or resources that you need to help you do your jobs better, I hope you will turn to NCSL and contact me personally if we can be of assistance.

This bimonthly newsletter is to keep you informed about women in state legislatures, NCSL meetings and resources, and noteworthy news. We will be focusing on a different topic each issue. This month, you’ll see information and resources about domestic violence and sexual assault. We welcome news from your state, so please submit any items that you’d like to share with women around the country. The next issue will celebrate women in American politics, in connection with the Women’s Legislative Network 30th anniversary celebration this summer.

As part of the 2015 Legislative Summit in Seattle, Aug. 3-6, the Network will mark 30 years since its official founding! I hope you will join us for the festivities. We will hold a workshop about women in politics, a gala reception, and much more. We also will address the issues of domestic violence and sexual assault during our policy roundtables session. Stay tuned for updates and review our agenda here.

The mission of the Women’s Legislative Network is to promote the participation, empowerment and leadership of women legislators. The Network is bipartisan and includes every female legislator in the states and territories. I hope you will join us at a future event or share your ideas about what you’d like us to work on.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Jane Powdrell-Culbert, State Representative, New Mexico
President, Women’s Legislative Network of NCSL
Email me

Apply to the Network Board!

GavelThe Women’s Legislative Network Board has six positions open for the two-year term of 2015-2017. Your participation is needed as the Network embarks on new outreach strategies and finalizes a strategic plan for its future. The deadline to apply is June 22. Complete information is here.

Domestic Violence and Sexual assault: NCSL resources and links

The Women’s Legislative Network Board supports continued attention to topics related to domestic violence and sexual assault prevention and services for victims.

NCSL’s Database of State Provisions Regarding Domestic Violence and Abuse

States vary in their domestic violence provisions. Approximately 38 states place domestic violence definitions and penalties within the criminal code and nearly every state provides a definition within the domestic relations or social services codes. Within this variance are broad definitions that may include stalking, harassment and, in some instances, nonphysical abuse including intimidation and emotional abuse. Database here.

NCSL Summary of Domestic Violence Legislation Enacted in 2013 and 2014

State legislatures enacted various policies over the past two years aimed at supporting the needs of individuals and families affected by domestic violence. Broad topics include arrest procedures and sentencing guidelines; victims’ employment and income protection; victims’ rights; education system responsibilities; state offices and task forces; protective orders; gun legislation; and revising definitions of partner and couples status. Summary here.

NCSL Database of State Laws on Teen Dating Violence

TeensDating violence is the physical, sexual or psychological/emotional violence that occurs within a dating relationship. Destructive relationships during the teen years can lead to lifelong unhealthy relationship practices, may disrupt normal development, and can contribute to other unhealthy behaviors in teens that can lead to chronic mental and physical health conditions in adulthood. At least 19 states have laws that urge or require school boards to develop curriculum on teen dating violence. Some require schools to develop policies related to dating violence and other school violence. Many states have also adopted teen dating violence awareness weeks or months, in an effort to draw the public's attention to a national campaign that promotes prevention, healthy relationships, and offers information and resources. Database here.

Snapshot of the Prevalence of Rape, Physical Violence and Stalking by an Intimate Partner

Sexual violence, intimate partner violence and stalking have been identified as major public health problems by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Snapshot here.

NCSL Database of State Laws on Parental Rights and Sexual Assault

Approximately 33 states and the District of Columbia have enacted legislation regarding the parental rights of perpetrators of sexual assault. Twenty-one states allow for termination of parental rights if the parent was convicted of sexual assault which resulted in the birth of the child. The other 12 states and the District of Columbia deny or restrict custody or visitation if the child was conceived as a result of a rape or sexual assault. Generally, a conviction is required before parental rights are terminated. Database here.

Archived NCSL Webinar about Untested Sexual Assault Evidence

Webinar LogoAcross the nation, state and local governments are grappling with challenges presented by untested sexual assault kits—commonly called “rape kits”—stored in police precincts and storage facilities. Each untested sexual assault kit represents a potential opportunity to identify a criminal and provide closure for a victim. View this archived webinar from September 2014 to learn how states are coordinating resources and addressing untested sexual assault evidence, and read the accompanying blog post. Webinar here.

Domestic Violence and sexual assault: News from the States

A few examples of state activity related to domestic violence and sexual assault from around the country. If we missed your state, please submit a news tip for future issues.

Hawaii Passes Women’s Caucus Priority Bills Related to Domestic Violence

The Hawaii Legislature passed three bills related to domestic violence and assault that were prioritized by the Women’s Legislative Caucus. SB387 establishes an affirmative consent task force to review and make recommendations on the University of Hawaii’s policy on domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. HB448 requires the Department of Health to conduct reviews of domestic violence fatalities and near-deaths, and to develop procedures related to near-deaths. SB388 requires each county police department to post on its website its policies relating to domestic violence and officer-involved domestic violence, and its standards of conduct.

Kelsey Smith Act Now in 18 States After Enactment in Iowa

CellphoneThe Kelsey Smith Act provides law enforcement with a way to quickly ascertain the location of a wireless telecommunications device if a person has been determined to be at risk of death or serious physical harm due to being kidnapped and/or missing. The act is named for an 18-year-old Kansas woman who was abducted from a shopping center and murdered. It took four days for law enforcement to gain access to the cellphone records that led to the discovery of her body. Kelsey’s parents advocated for the first law in Kansas in 2009, and have worked around the country since then. The act was passed most recently in Iowa and also has been introduced in Louisiana this session. Read more about the Kelsey Smith Act here.

Massachusetts Reestablishes Council on Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence

Governor Charlie Baker signed an executive order reestablishing a council that brings advocates against sexual assault and domestic violence together with law enforcement and government officials. The council’s aim is to improve prevention, enhance existing support services, and hold perpetrators accountable. The 30-member Governor’s Council on Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence was established by former governor Paul Cellucci’s administration, in which Baker served. Read more here.

South Carolina Considers Domestic Violence Law Reform

South Carolina FlagThe South Carolina House and Senate have passed versions of bills toughening penalties for domestic violence, but the two legislative bodies must agree on a compromise before a bill can go to Gov. Nikki Haley. That potential compromise was the primary topic of conversation at a forum in Lexington last month. State Senator Katrina Shealy and State Representatives Chip Huggins and Ralph Kennedy were among the panelists. The panelists agreed on the need for action in passing domestic violence legislation but, in some cases, disagreed on how to accomplish it. Shealy focused on the aspect of the Senate bill she sponsored that would forbid those convicted of domestic violence from owning guns for a period of time. Huggins and Kennedy did not directly answer the question when asked about forbidding convicts to own guns. Huggins responded that he had heard a lot about it from his constituents and encouraged more input. Kennedy also touted the House bill’s inclusion of domestic violence education programs. Read more here.

Virginia Addresses Campus Sexual Assault

Virginia passed legislation this session to reduce sexual assault on campus and strengthen supports for victims. The law, signed by the governor:

  • Creates a multidisciplinary sexual assault response team to handle cases;
  • Mandates that employees of higher education institutions inform administrators within four hours after they become aware of a felony sexual assault on a student;
  • Establishes an avenue for victims to receive information about victim-support services and access to an advocate who can provide a trauma-sensitive response;
  • Requires campus police and law-enforcement agencies to notify the commonwealth’s attorney of any reported sexual assaults;
  • Mandates that campus law-enforcement receive victim sensitivity training.

Read more about the legislation here.

Washington Lawmakers Address Sexual Violence on Campus

Amid a national conversation about how to better address sexual violence on college campuses, state lawmakers have passed two bills that seek to better gauge, respond to and reduce the number of sexual assaults at Washington colleges. Senate Bill 5518 adds provisions in state law to ensure a standardized disciplinary process stemming from sexual-assault allegations and to strengthen confidentiality measures for those seeking help. Senate Bill 5719 creates a statewide task force to bring education executives, law-enforcement officials and others together to develop recommendations on how to reduce sexual violence on campus and spread awareness about it. Read more here.

Friends of the network

Center for American Women and Politics: Presidential Gender Watch Online

With Hillary Clinton and Carly Fiorina now in the race, women are running for president in both major parties for the first time in history. CAWP has joined the Barbara Lee Family Foundation to create Presidential Gender Watch 2016, a nonpartisan project to track, analyze and illuminate gender dynamics in election 2016. The website already features a lively analysis from both scholars and political practitioners, with much more to come. Read more here.

Thank You to Our Newest Sponsor!

The Women’s Legislative Network welcomes The Entertainment Software Association as an Alliance sponsor.