New Laws, New Rights for Sexual Assault Victims

New Laws, New Rights for Sexual Assault Victims

Texas Association Against Sexual Assault Launches Statewide Education Campaign During Sexual Assault Awareness Month


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AUSTIN, Texas, April 14, 2011 /PRNewswire-HISPANIC PR WIRE/ — Being a victim of sexual assault is frightening enough. But knowing your rights as a survivor can make all the difference when it comes to getting help. April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month and the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault (TAASA) is launching a statewide education campaign about two Texas state laws that empower survivors to take control of what can be two very difficult scenarios.

The campaign launches this week with statewide radio spots, newspaper ads, billboards and a microsite with details about the new laws that can be found at www.HopeLaws.org.

The first law provides important options for someone sexually assaulted in a rental property where they live. Texas Property Code 92.0161 allows a victim of sexual assault to break a lease at an apartment or another rental property without having to pay financial penalties such as future rent or any fees for ending the lease early.

“This is an important law that protects renters from what can be an unsafe situation,” said TAASA Executive Director Annette Burrhus-Clay. “By at least having the option to break a lease and move out, it makes it possible to begin the process of healing – emotionally, mentally and physically.”

According to the law, a lease can be broken with 30 days notice and written documentation that the assault happened at the rental property within the last six months before breaking the lease. Acceptable forms of documentation include a protective order issued by a court, or paperwork showing that the renter had medical treatment or mental health treatment from a licensed provider, or received services at a rape crisis center. A police report is not required and the tenant can move out as soon as he or she gives notice.

The second law has to do with sexual assault exams. A sexual assault examination (also called a medical forensic exam) is a procedure conducted by a medical professional to treat and diagnose a victim of sexual assault while also collecting evidence of the crime.

Texas law now states that if a sexual assault victim is not ready to get police involved, she or he still has the option to have a sexual assault examination conducted.

“It’s called a ‘non-report sexual assault exam,'” Burrhus-Clay said. “And that means medical treatment can be given and important evidence can be collected, except the survivor can choose to involve police later, or even not at all.”

Additionally, there is no law requiring medical facilities to report sexual assaults of adults to law enforcement, so the decision to report is entirely the survivor’s. This important change in the law balances the needs of the victim and the criminal justice system by allowing survivors to preserve important evidence and still take the time they need to decide whether to report.

Combined, these two laws extend the rights of sexual assault victims while giving them options to take control of the situation.

“If you or somebody you love has been sexually assaulted, take the time to learn more about your rights,” Burrhus-Clay said. “Knowing about these two laws can make a real difference when it comes to empowering yourself or someone you love.”

Visit www.HopeLaws.org for more information.

About TAASA

The Texas Association Against Sexual Assault (TAASA) is the statewide organization committed to ending sexual violence in Texas. A non-profit educational and advocacy organization based in Austin, TAASA member agencies comprise a statewide network of more than 80 crisis centers that serve rural as well as metropolitan areas. Founded in 1982, the agency has a strong record of success in community education, youth outreach, law enforcement training, legislative advocacy, and curricula and materials development. Additional information about TAASA can be found at www.taasa.org.

CONTACT: Ryann Collier, +1-512-499-8009, rcollier@russell-shaw.com

SOURCE Texas Association Against Sexual Assault

New Laws, New Rights for Sexual Assault Victims