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Washington State Legislative News

2021 STATE LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES

Nearly 18,500 victims of sexual assault in Washington state sought help from community-based  sexual assault organizations in 2019. 

Acknowledging the intersection between sexual violence and racial and social justice, KCSARC, along with a working group of partners statewide, has prioritized legislation in the 2021 session to improve access to community-based victim advocacy services, reduce barriers to reporting and protection, and increase transparency surrounding outcomes for survivors who report their assault or abuse.

These policy changes are particularly important to ensuring equitable access to support, safety and justice for victims who identify as Black, Indigenous, Latinx/Hispanic and other people of color. Statewide, 30% of the survivors who were supported by one of these community organizations in 2019 identified as people of color other than Latinx or Hispanic; another 21% identified as Latinx/Hispanic. That same year, 57% of those served by KCSARC identified as people of color.

KCSARC and its partners are advocating for:

1.     Advocacy support for every survivor:  Every victim must be offered a referral to a community-based Sexual Assault Advocate upon making a report to law enforcement, seeking medical care or entering the criminal justice system.  Community-based sexual assault advocates have legally protected and privileged communication with the victim. Prompt involvement of advocates can be a critical bridge for victims, providing options for support and additional resources such as connections to culturally-specific and appropriate services.  Protocols to engage advocates must be in place between every law enforcement agency, prosecutor’s office, hospital, and Community Sexual Assault Program (CSAP).

2.     Reduced Barriers to Reporting and Protection. This includes making protection orders available online and setting protocols for victim witness participation in hearings via video/audioCOVID has underscored the barriers currently existing as well as highlighted options that are working and need to become permanent. 

3.     Data-based Assessment of Criminal Justice Outcomes: In Washington state there is no common data on the number of victims who report to law enforcement, nor the number of cases filed, charged, or pled down to a non-sexual assault charge. We also do not know the race or ethnicity of victims, making it impossible to determine if there are disparate outcomes based on race. Jurisdictions in other states collect this information and conduct regular audits — Washington should do so as well.

4.    Funding: Funding for Washington’s integrated and robust system of specialized sexual assault services must be maintained.

In addition to these proposals, the working group will monitor and support policies that address adjacent social and racial justice issues, such as restoration of voting rights for those convicted of felonies. 

Sexual assault working group members:

  • Sexual Assault Program YWCA Clark County

  • Support, Advocacy & Resource Center Tri Cities

  • LCS Northwest Spokane Sexual Assault & Family Trauma (SAFeT) Response Center

  • Rebuilding Hope! Sexual Assault Center for Pierce County

  • Harborview Abuse and Trauma Center UW Medicine

  • King County Sexual Assault Resource Center

  • Sexual Violence Law Center

  • Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs   

WANT TO RAISE YOUR VOICE ON THESE ISSUES?

We invite you to sign up for our Advocacy Alerts, which is the best way know how what's happening. You'll be joining other KCSARC supporters who choose to stay close to our advocacy work. We'll let you know when it's time to speak up for changes that remove barriers for survivors and support resources to help them heal.