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Law and Criminal Justice

New Law Extends More Privacy To Sexual Assault Victims

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New legislation awaiting the governor’s signature extends more privacy rights to sexual assault and domestic abuse victims on college campuses. Previously, a legal loophole that didn’t protect personal information given to victims’ advocates left some victims vulnerable.

Current law provides what’s called “testimonial privilege” to sexual assault and domestic violence victim advocates, such as people who work at rape crisis centers.  Democratic Representative Christina Hale says that means an advocate can’t be compelled to reveal a victim’s personal details in court.

“Personal details about their health care, about previous encounters, intimate details that they consider to be very personal – all of that could come out in a court of law,” she says. “Things that might not even be relevant to the case; things they might not want their parents to know, their friends to know.”

But an unintentional loophole in state law doesn’t provide that testimonial privilege to victims advocates on college campuses.  Hale says she’s worried that loophole creates a barrier for some victims.

“People might not want to tell their story, to report these crimes, if they know that everything they say could come out,” Hale adds.

Legislation awaiting the governor’s signature – and approved unanimously by both houses – closes that loophole, giving victims on campus the privacy they have everywhere else.  

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