Each year, April is recognized as Sexual Assault Awareness Month. This year, the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence (MOCADSV) is launching an awareness campaign to educate Missourians of their rights under the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights. This bill initially passed in 2020, but required some legislative fixes that led to a slower rollout of any awareness raising campaigns.
The Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights (SASBR) enshrines into law important rights for survivors of sexual assault including the right to consult with an advocate of a rape crisis center, be offered a shower and fresh set of clothing – free of charge, have an interpreter, in the language of their choice, to help communicate, and more.
To continue raising awareness of the rights of sexual assault survivors, and recruit much-needed hospital advocate volunteers, MOCADSV developed a series of awareness posters highlighting key aspects of the SASBR available, at no cost, to the general public on our website.
In addition to the current need for hospital advocates, the 2024 implementation of the Sexual Assault Nurse Examination telehealth network will lead to an even greater increase in the demand for these volunteers. MOCADSV has created these posters along with a social media campaign encouraging Missourians to connect with local agencies to become volunteer hospital advocates. We know that as sexual assault forensic exams become more widely available, and survivors of sexual violence become aware of their rights under the SASBR, many domestic violence and sexual assault service providers will be called upon for hospital advocacy.
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With the new year, MOCADSV is excited to announce updates to Season 3 of our interview and discussion-style podcast, newly named MOmentum for Change: Voices of the Missouri Movement. This interview and discussion-style podcast features advocates and thought leaders across Missouri who are united under our shared goal of ending rape and abuse in Missouri.
The name change celebrates our shared efforts for social change throughout the Missouri Movement and aligns with our public policy motto “We change laws, we change lives”. In addition to the new name, we have updated the cover page and graphics with colors in recognition of domestic and sexual violence awareness.
The podcast is produced by MOCADSV staff from monthly discussions recorded by host Nora Mosby. Listen now on Spotify, Apple, or Google Podcasts. MOmentum for Change is also available on the MOCADSV YouTube Channel, where you can also stream episodes from previous seasons. Subscribe to receive new episodes monthly.
At the end of 2022, President Biden passed a large spending bill that included significant increases to many funding sources that support victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, dating violence, and harassment. MOCADSV thanks our national coalition partners, champions in Congress, and advocates across the country for their work in getting these important increases to funding across the finish line.
Some highlights from this spending package include:
- Record-breaking increase in funding for the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA) program, which was increased by $37.5 million
- Sexual Assault Services Program (SASP) increased by $24.5 million to a total of $78.5 million
- Rape Prevention & Education Program (RPE) increased by $5 million to a total of $61.75 million
- $170 million toward DNA initiatives that include sexual assault forensic exam kit testing and sexual assault forensic exam program grants
- VAWA Culturally Specific Programs increased by $1 million to a total of $11 million
- VOCA cap is set at $1.9 billion with no VAWA transfer
- A number of increases to vital VAWA programs including: the Sexual Assault Services Program, the Transitional Housing program, Legal Assistance for Victims, the Rural Grant Program, as well as investments in newer programs like the LGBTQ Specific Services Program
For more information on the domestic and sexual violence funding passed in the Fiscal Year 2023 appropriations bill, check out the information put out by the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) and the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence (NAESV).
It’s not news to some that in communities throughout Missouri there have been restrictions on access to emergency contraception by faith-based hospitals and pharmacies. MOCADSV is gravely concerned that if more hospitals and pharmacies stop providing access to emergency contraception the ramifications of these decisions will again be placed on the shoulders of victims who need the best from Missouri, its decision-makers, their communities, and their healthcare providers. Sending a victim out in borrowed clothes after an assault and an invasive exam, to travel to a variety of stores or pharmacies to track down the medication they need to put their mind at ease is cruel and unwarranted. Missouri can and should do better.
St. Luke’s Health System in Kansas City has reversed their earlier decision to stop providing emergency contraception to patients. Their decision to stop providing it was based on interpretation of the 2019 “trigger law” that last week banned abortion, and the subsequent proclamation and opinion signed by the Governor and Attorney General. We appreciate St. Luke’s willingness to reverse course and put the needs of victims first.
First and foremost, we want to thank the advocates at the Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault (MOCSA). MOCSA staff immediately advocated on the behalf of victims by describing how this change in policy would affect someone who had just been raped and was seeking a comprehensive range of hospital care. MOCSA’s advocacy efforts have not gone unnoticed.
Thank you to Missouri House Minority Leader, Representative Crystal Quade of Springfield, for requesting an official opinion from the Attorney General’s office regarding the new law and the impact on Missourians who use contraception.
Thank you to the office of the Missouri Attorney General for quickly and unequivocally stating, as reported by the Missouri Independent, “Missouri law does not prohibit the use or provision of Plan B, or contraception,” said Chris Nuelle, a spokesman for Schmitt.”
After Governor Parson charged the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) to evaluate whether the newly enacted law that bans abortions in Missouri applies to contraceptives, DHSS released a statement that contraception is not banned under Missouri law. “Before and following the Supreme Court of the United States’ ruling in Dobbs that overturns Roe v. Wade, Missouri law does not ban the use of contraception methods. RSMo 188.017 criminalizes performing an abortion absent a medical emergency, but this does not include pregnancy preventive measures.”
We thank DHSS for their swift action in releasing this statement and ensuring that sexual assault survivors, and all Missourians, will continue to have access to emergency contraceptives.
We hope other providers that had been considering a change of practice to stop providing emergency contraception strongly consider the statements from the Attorney General’s office and Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services before doing so. For additional information about birth control methods and where to access various forms of birth control, visit the Missouri Family Health Council.
On June 24, 2022, the United States Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overturned the prior decision from Roe v. Wade that held that a woman has a constitutional right to abortion. This decision effectively ends the almost 50-year-old constitutional right to abortion in the U.S., largely leaving abortion rights up to the individual states.
Missouri’s 2019 abortion law contained a “trigger” provision that would immediately ban abortion in Missouri after an action by the Attorney General, Governor, or State Legislature. The same day as the Supreme Court’s ruling, Missouri’s Attorney General released an opinion and Missouri’s Governor sent out a proclamation both of which activated Missouri’s trigger law and banned all abortions in Missouri, with no exception for rape or incest. The only exceptions are for medical emergencies that threaten the life of the pregnant person or “create a serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman.”
Here is what we do know: Abortion care is no longer provided in Missouri, however, patients from Missouri may seek abortion services in other states – including Illinois and Kansas. Birth control and other types of contraception, including IUDs and Plan B, are not abortifacients and are not restricted under current Missouri law. Currently, patients who seek abortions should not be prosecuted under Missouri law, however, the law is unclear in regard to some types of abortion care. Patients should contact their local clinic for more information or call the All Options Talkline – 1-888-493-0092.
Every day, Missouri’s advocates see the trauma caused by the loss of control over survivors’ bodies after they have experienced violence. They are witness to the limiting or removing of survivors’ privacy and autonomy and how it further traumatizes survivors of rape and abuse by removing their ability to make choices for themselves.
Pregnancy can increase a person’s vulnerability to intimate partner abuse, and abusive partners often exercise reproductive coercion over their victims. Survivors of intimate partner violence (IPV) who experience reproductive coercion are less likely to be able to make decisions about family planning and contraception because of the dynamics of power and control present in abusive relationships. Unplanned pregnancies increase the risk of IPV, and IPV increases the risk of unplanned pregnancies.
Approximately, 1 in 5 young women reported experiencing pregnancy coercion, and 1 in 7 reported experiencing active interference with contraception 1. 25-50% of adolescent mothers experience intimate partner violence before, during, or just after their pregnancy 2. As many as one-quarter of women of reproductive age accessing healthcare providers for sexual and reproductive health services report a history of experiencing reproductive coercion at some point in their lifetime 3,4. Reproductive and pregnancy coercion is an all too common form of intimate partner sexual assault.
Maternal health is also negatively affected in states where abortion access is limited. According to a 2022 report from the Commonwealth Fund, in 2020 maternal death rates in abortion-restricted states were 62 percent higher than states with abortion access. Additionally, maternal deaths in abortion-restrictive states were reportedly higher in every major racial or ethnic group5.
Our legislative history includes advocating for marital rape to be a crime, advocating that domestic violence not be considered a pre-existing condition to deny insurance coverage, supporting the inclusion of consent, sexual harassment, and assault information in sex education programming in schools; and endorsing the Medicaid expansion ballot initiative. Our public policy work is rooted in providing options to survivors and working to prevent violence before it ever occurs.
1.National Crime Victimization Survey. (2005). https://bjs.ojp.gov/library/publications/criminal-victimization-2005-revised
2. Leiderman, S. & Almo, C. (2001). Interpersonal violence and adolescent pregnancy: Prevalence and implications for practice and policy. Washington, DC: Healthy Teen Network. https://osbha.org/files/Interpersonal%20Violence%20and%20Pregnancy.pdf
3. Tarzia, L. & Hagerty, K. (2021). A conceptual re-evaulation of reproductive coercion: Centering intent, fear and control. https://reproductive-health-journal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12978-021-01143-6
4. Rowlands, S. & Walker, S. (2019). Reproductive control by others: Means, perpetrators and effects. BMJ Sex Reprod Health. (45) 61–7. https://srh.bmj.com/content/45/1/61
5.Eugene Declercq et al., The U.S. Maternal Health Divide: The Limited Maternal Health Services and Worse Outcomes of States Proposing New Abortion Restrictions (Commonwealth Fund, Dec. 2022). https://doi.org/10.26099/z7dz-8211