We grieve with Kansas City today. Yesterday’s events are still being absorbed by so many. The impact of the fear for those on the scene and later for the families and friends who have stood by those who were able to walk away physically unharmed continues to ripple. Dealing with trauma can be immensely challenging but there are resources available. The Crisis Lifeline is available 24/7 by dialing or texting 988. Their services are free and confidential. You can also call your local Mental Health Centers. You don’t have to deal with your trauma and feelings alone.

January is National Stalking Awareness Month. In many cases, stalkers will push the boundaries of their victims, causing their victims to constantly be on high alert. Environmental design is a form of safety planning that can have a positive effect on preventing crime and supporting community connectedness. The Rape and Abuse Crisis Center (RACS) and the Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault (MOCSA) have created two separate toolkits on environmental design as crime prevention.

Stalking is defined by the Stalking Prevention and Awareness Resource Center (SPARC) as “a pattern of behavior directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear for the person’s safety or the safety of others; or suffer substantial emotional distress.” Stalkers may target an individual or their home by following them, invading property, or causing damage.

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) promotes safety by considering various aspects of community design. According to MOCSA’s Community by Design: Neighborhood Safety, simple changes can be made to visibility, availability of directions, neighborhood connectedness, and the maintenance of space. People are discouraged from engaging in unsafe behavior if they feel there are strong neighborhood connections and properties that are well-maintained by their owners. Additionally, using environmental design to promote a safe neighborhood also promotes a strong sense of community by engaging residents in maintaining a safe space.  

Environmental design can be used as a form of safety planning. According to SPARC’s Stalking Safety Strategies toolkit, safety planning around the home includes informing neighbors, identifying escape routes, and using documentation strategies such as home surveillance cameras. RACS’s Community Prevention Neighborhood Toolkit promotes many of these strategies using the natural design of the property. Using full cutoff lighting, creating clear paths to the entry points of the property, and creating trusting relationships with neighbors are all suggestions for neighborhood crime prevention that also work towards an individual’s safety plan.

MOCSA’s toolkit provides users with an assessment tool to examine their community through a safety lens. Each section of the assessment provides solutions easily maintainable by individuals in the community, as well as suggestions on ways to get local community groups and government involved with the implementation of CPTED.

RACS’s CPTED toolkit provides users with an in-depth guide on natural surveillance, territorial reinforcement, access control, and maintenance. Simple switches in lighting options or landscaping are examples of ways to better promote safety by increasing visibility and maintaining properties.

Access the toolkits today here:

MOCSA Community by Design: Neighborhood Safety Toolkit. 

Contact RACS to access their CPTED toolkit. 

In April 2023, the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence (MOCADSV) launched an awareness campaign to educate Missourians of their rights under the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights (SASBR). These include the right to consult with an advocate of a rape crisis center, be offered a shower and fresh set of clothing, have an interpreter to help communicate, and more. 

As part of the Know Your Rights campaign, MOCADSV printed and shipped hundreds of large informational posters to organizations throughout Missouri, each featuring diverse models and the abbreviated SASBR. The general public can order tabloid-sized copies of the Know Your Rights posters at the MOCADSV online store free of charge; these large posters are printed in-house at MOCADSV to ensure quality.

Acting on member agency feedback, MOCADSV also developed letter-size versions of the Know Your Rights posters, including variations translated in Spanish. These posters are available for download in full-color and black-and-white and can be printed on standard office printers.

Counterman V. Colorado

The Supreme Court of the United States decided in Counterman v. Colorado that the conviction of a Colorado man who received a four-and-a-half-year prison sentence for stalking would be thrown out. The implications of this court ruling will have impacts on how future stalking cases proceed, including jurisdictions requiring evidence that offenders understood the threatening nature of their communication.

Counterman was originally found guilty by the Colorado courts for stalking a singer-songwriter for several years. Some of his stalking tactics included sending unwanted messages over Facebook. These messages grew more threatening as the stalking continued. Counterman appealed the original case ruling and the Supreme Court found that the Colorado courts applied an incorrect test to the threats made by Counterman. SCOTUS decided that the Colorado courts needed to apply a recklessness standard. This type of standard would require evidence the speaker was aware recipients of their message would recognize the message as threats of violence and proceed to send anyway.

Stalking is defined in Missouri state statue as an individual engaging in conduct directed towards a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to be frightened, intimidated, or emotionally distressed under the circumstances of the individual’s actions. The law states that an individual has committed the offense of stalking in the first degree if they purposefully disturb another person with their actions. This conduct may include threats made that would cause a reasonable person to fear for their safety or physically following an individual with the intent of causing them distress.

Victims of stalking already have difficulty in creating viable cases due to existing tests of statements as threats. The requirement that evidence must prove the recklessness standard further creates barriers in the accessibility of legal protections for stalking victims. 

 

 

Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. V. President and Fellows of Harvard College

The decision from the Supreme Court of the United States in the case Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President and Fellows of Harvard College will remove the use of affirmative action in college admission practices. Affirmative action is used in college admissions to promote diversity within student bodies. Removing affirmative action practices within college admissions will ultimately have damaging impacts on victims of domestic and sexual violence.

Inequality and oppression are large factors of why women of color experience higher rates of domestic and sexual violence. Oppressive behaviors from higher education institutions often prevent women of color from achieving educational goals that may promote financial stability. Poverty doesn’t automatically equate to domestic and sexual violence, but it is a factor to enabled abuse. The lack of personal financial stability can also be used to prevent a victim from leaving an abusive relationship.

 

303 Creative v. Elenis

The Supreme Court decision in 303 Creative v. Elenis found it constitutional for a website designer to refuse to provide website designing services to a same-sex couple. This ruling allows business owners providing customized messaging services to refuse to do business with same-sex or other couples.

The decision from the Supreme Court promotes discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals. The normalization of discrimination and inequality makes it difficult for LGBTQ+ people to find accessible resources, especially accessible legal resources. Though there are a variety of programs accessible to LGBTQ+ people, lack of support in legal decisions can further make resources feel inaccessible.

 

U.S. V. Rahimi

The United States Supreme Court will review the decision in the case U.S v. Rahimi which was tried in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals sought to dismantle federal law prohibiting individuals under a protective order for domestic violence from possessing firearms. SCOTUS will have the opportunity to set national standards for the safety of domestic and sexual violence victims.

The conclusion from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals that domestic violence offenders under protective orders have the constitutional right to possess a firearm is dangerous. Perpetrators of violent crime who possess a firearm are more likely to kill their partner than perpetrators who do not. The long-standing federal law protects domestic violence victims and should continue to do so.

The U.S. v. Rahimi case will be heard in the United States Supreme Court later this year.

New Missouri legislation will extend Medicaid postpartum care from 60 days to one year. Gov. Mike Parson signed SB45 on July 6, providing extended coverage for pregnant individuals. The extended time period will provide Medicaid users with the greater opportunity to receive treatment for a wide variety of health conditions. The extension of benefits will go into effect on August 28, 2023.

Under the current law, Medicaid benefits provided through Mo HealthNet for Pregnant Women or Show-Me Healthy Babies covers pregnant individuals throughout the pregnancy and 60 days after. Coverage provided in this 60-day window include any pregnancy-related health procedures or assessments.

With the updates to current state statutes, Missouri residents who qualify for Medicaid will be provided full Medicaid benefits throughout pregnancy and one year postpartum. The Missouri Medicaid recipients will continue to use the online portals to access healthcare coverage.

Medicaid is a low-cost or free health insurance option for low-income families and individuals. Individuals making up to $17,774 a year or families of four making up to $36,750 qualify for Medicaid through Mo HealthNet. The low-cost healthcare option provides coverage to thousands of Missourians, allowing for access to necessary health services.

The expansion of postpartum benefits is necessary to ensure healthcare coverage for individuals experiencing a wide variety of health conditions such as postpartum depression, hypertension, diabetes or other pregnancy-related complications. Full access to Medicaid benefits will also grant pregnant and postpartum individuals access to individual and group therapy options.  

Extending postpartum Medicaid coverage from 60-days to one year was an MOCADSV public policy priority for the 2023 legislative session, and MOCADSV testified in support of this legislation.