OLYMPIA – Survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault will gain crucial protections and supports, and abusers will be held more accountable, if four bills passed unanimously by the Senate become law.
SB 5180, passed today, would make it easier for survivors to wipe off their record sentences they received for offenses that were the result of being a victim of sex trafficking, domestic violence or sexual assault.
“Traditionally our justice system has not done a good job in understanding the trauma of survivors,” said Sen. Manka Dhingra (D-Redmond), the bill’s sponsor. “This bill is about helping survivors reclaim their lives and move forward in a positive way.”
SB 5183, also passed today, would address domestic violence strangulation. Survivors of nonfatal strangulation are eight times more likely to become a subsequent victim of homicide at the hands of the same abusive partner. But many times, they come away without visible or easily interpretable bruising. This bill will set up a system and provide funding so that they can get the medical assistance they need, and evidence can be collected to help in court cases that will avert further abuse down the road, preventing fatalities.
“Strangulation is dangerous, prolific, and oftentimes unaddressed,” said Sen. T’wina Nobles (D-Fircrest), who is sponsoring the bill. “Medical examinations are the best ways to hold abusers accountable.”
SB 5127, passed yesterday, would increase access to therapy dogs that help children and vulnerable adults tell their stories of survival.
“Since courthouses are closed because of the pandemic, this bill would allow those dogs access to public spaces so they can go to survivors to provide much-needed comfort when recounting their trauma,” said Dhingra, the sponsor.
Finally, SB 5177, passed on Feb. 16, would eliminate marriage as a legal defense for rape—a defense that creates a loophole allowing sex offenders who move into the state to avoid registering here.
“Language in our current statute hearkens back to the early 1900s, when it was still legal to marry a 10-year-old child,” said Sen. Annette Cleveland (D-Vancouver), the bill’s sponsor. “It’s past time for our state to join the rest of the modern world and ensure that sex offenders from other states are registered in our state as well.”
The bills now go to the House of Representatives for consideration. They have until April 11 to be approved by the House to be eligible to become law this year.
The 2021 legislative session is scheduled to adjourn on April 25.