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.
My name is Cheryl Robb-Welch, and I am the CEO of the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. MOCADSV represents almost every domestic and sexual violence service provider in the state. Thank you to the bill’s sponsor, Representative Del Taylor, for recognizing the gap in the law that continues to threaten the lives of victims of domestic violence, and the people who try to help them.
Like many of you on the committee, in a prior life I was in law enforcement. During my time, I was a 911 dispatcher and then a deputy sheriff.
In research studies conducted by the Violence Policy Center and Everytown, Missouri has been as high as third in the nation per capita to population in gun related homicides of women. Most recently we are ranked 6th.[i] We also know that in almost half the instances of mass shootings the perpetrator also shot an intimate partner or family member. Lastly, as of data posted seven days ago, more than 4 million women have reported being threatened with a gun by their partner.[ii]
People tend to talk about domestic violence as a word without a nuance of meaning, or a phrase for something they don’t want to talk about. Domestic violence is thought of as a single incident, an arrest, or during a court process. There is not enough focus on what it means in the moment to the victims.
Many of you on the committee have past experience in law enforcement and the justice system, and likely have your own memories of responding to a call of domestic violence. I ask you to think back to those calls. For those who may not have, I’d like to share an experience that has stayed with me through the years.
During the end of my law enforcement career I responded to the calls for assistance, but one of my earliest experiences of working with a victim of domestic violence was while dispatching, and being on the phone with someone as they experienced the moment-by-moment fear of death at the hands of their husband.
I worked for a sheriff’s department during a time period when very often there was only one officer on duty at night to cover the entire county. It was late in the night when I took a call from a terrified woman who said her husband had been threatening to kill her, and he was now outside the house with at least one of his guns. Shortly after dispatching officers, she quietly said, “He is in the house.” In the intervening time that it took for officers to arrive, I listened to her panic, and assisted her in locating a hiding spot in an upstairs room, as far from the front door as she could get. We stayed on the phone together as she cried, as she tried to calm her breathing so she could be as quiet as possible. And then she fell silent. She whispered, “He is on the stairs.”
She was fortunate that officers arrived on the scene before he made it to the second floor. In her fear and relief that officers were on the scene she told me she heard him run from the house, and then- she hung up on me. As a dispatcher, I continued to wait anxiously with fear that had now become my own because now I had officers, my friends, who were looking for an armed individual somewhere on the surrounding wooded property.
In reality, the time spent on the entire call and dispatching of the scene was probably no more than an hour. I can tell you that if felt much, much longer. The terror that she conveyed was palpable, and has never left me. That call was a single moment of domestic violence. I hadn’t experienced the fear and violence that led to that incident, to that day. I did share her confidence that he intended to shoot and kill her that night.
The presence of a gun in a home that is under the control of someone who uses violence has an impact on so many. It affects the victim, their children, emergency personnel who have to respond, and advocates who work with victims after the incident. The abusive person’s threats are amplified when a gun is used to frighten, coerce, and threaten everyone in the household.
If we flip the script from, “Why does the victim stay?” and instead ask why does the violent person in the home find it acceptable to, quite literally, routinely put a gun to the head of the person they profess to love and tell them, “This might be the day I kill you. You will never see it coming. But, if you leave me – you should know that I will definitely kill you.” Advocates hear this from victims again, again, and again. They deal personally with the aftermath of hearing that victims have been stalked relentlessly, ambushed and murdered in the parking lots of where they work, murdered in their homes, in their front yards, at their parent’s homes, and in front of their children. The threat of violence is real, and it is constant. The risk of homicide increases exponentially when a gun is allowed to be in the hands of an abusive partner.
The provisions in this bill, and bills like it, occur after an individual has had an opportunity to have a hearing in front of a judge for a full Order of Protection or after a conviction of a class A misdemeanor domestic violence and/or stalking. This is not a random decision to remove someone’s guns. Rather this is a tool for judges when a person’s own violent actions warrant the removal of guns to make their family and community safer.
Victims, and their advocates, have been asking and waiting for more than 40 years for guns to be taken out of the hands of abusive and violent people.
I beg of you to be the ones who finally put victim’s lives first.
[ii] https://everytownresearch.org/issue/domestic-violence/#by-the-numbers, Retrieved 04.26.2023
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.
Order yours through our store today.
MOCADSV has officially launched our podcast, MOmentum Live! 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 podcast is produced by MOCADSV from our monthly Facebook Livestream events. Our first full season is out now with all of the guests from 2022. The podcast is available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Google Podcasts. Subscribe to be notified when we drop new episodes! Additionally, if your preferred podcast platform is not on this list, please contact us and we will work to expand to additional platforms.