A new bill that would establish rights for sexual assault survivors will be introduced in the next legislative session by Senator Kate Bolz, she announced Tuesday.
Bolz said the national focus on the Me Too movement and sexual assault, as well as hearing from her constituents inspired her to work with local organizations to help survivors of sexual assault in Nebraska know their rights when they report a crime.
Bolz's Sexual Assault Survivors Bill of Rights would require for law enforcement or medical personnel to notify survivors of formal and informal resources available to them, as well as educate them on their rights, which include the right to be treated with fairness and respect, to consult with a sexual assault counselor or victims advocate, to be heard and participate in the criminal justice process, and apply for compensation.
"This would require the crime commission to develop factual, accurate, legally correct information that would be provided to all survivors," said Bolz. "Those resources could help survivors navigate through circumstances."
The Women's Center for Advancement, which serves about 150 survivors in Omaha each day believes adding legislation that supports and protects survivors will encourage victims to report a crime.
"For so long we've seen that our laws, because they're older, frequently protect a perpetrator instead of a victim or survivor. So we're hoping this will change where we see these types of laws will protect a survivor," said Elizabeth Power, who's been with WCA for nearly six years.
"It's such a critical piece to helping survivors understand that they're valued, that they will be heard, and believed. So once survivors start to see that and believe that, people will hopefully feel more comfortable in reporting sexual assault crimes, which as incredibly underreported," added Power.
Now that the bill language is complete, Bolz will start to seek co-sponsors for the bill and start planning for the hearing to present the bill in January 2019.