Advocacy and Legislative Affairs Manager Katia Santiago-Taylor at a BARCC event held at the Massachusetts State House
In 2010, a decade of work came to fruition. Ten years of collaborative effort resulted in the passing of a harassment prevention law that survivors of sexual violence can use to legally prevent their harasser from contacting them.
The law enabled a harassment prevention order that, if violated, can be an arrestable offense for the harasser, that applies to survivors outside of familial or intimate partner relationships. Under this law, survivors of sexual violence and/or repeated harassment may be eligible for an order.
The collaborative effort was between BARCC, community agencies who work with survivors, law enforcement, government agencies, and the pro bono services of Mintz Levin: partners who were and still are aware of how deeply laws affect survivors of sexual violence.
“There were no orders for survivors of sexual violence that had any criminal consequences attached. There was nothing to mirror the protections that were available to victims of intimate partner violence,” said Stephanie DeCandia, BARCC’s director of programs, of the time before the law was passed.
BARCC has been committed to legislative advocacy since its founding in 1973, supporting laws that directly affect survivors and their families. And in October 2017, organizational growth made a new position dedicated to these efforts possible: advocacy and legislative affairs manager, filled by longtime BARCC staffer Katia Santiago-Taylor.
In this role at BARCC, Katia is advancing five legislative priorities:
- Sexual violence response
- Sexual violence prevention and education
- Housing and economic stability
- Health care and mental health resources
- Criminal justice
“We want to promote the whole well-being of survivors,” said Katia. “And when we’re looking at the needs of survivors, we believe that prevention is critical to ending sexual violence.”
Promoting the whole well-being of survivors involves advocating for a state budget that raises the standard of living for all of Massachusetts, so survivors have more time and space to focus on healing rather than finding safe and affordable housing. For this reason, BARCC supports initiatives like Residential Assistance for Families in Transition and the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program.
“In Massachusetts there’s a history of attaching critical amendments to the budget,” said Katia. “We have to keep an eye on the budget process to make sure that things are passed that support survivors and their significant others, and amendments that have a negative impact on survivors and their significant others do not make it into the budget.”
Katia said people should pay attention to their local city or town government and what decisions they make there: “We encourage people to be aware of critical issues, register to vote, and know that their decisions at town or city level have a huge impact.” Folks can reach out to their state legislators by phone, e-mail, or written letter to learn more about how they support—or don’t support—legislation that positively affects survivors.
BARCC supports and tracks the following key bills that, as of June 2018, are currently being considered by Massachusetts legislators:
- An Act Relative to Sexual Violence on Higher Education Campuses (S2203/H632): This legislation aims to support survivors of sexual violence at higher education campuses by requiring higher education institutions to have information and resources available for survivors to access, among other mandates.
- An Act Relative to Healthy Youth (S2128/H3704): This bill requires school districts that already provide sex education to ensure that it is comprehensive, age-appropriate, LGBT-inclusive, and focused on consent.
- An Act Creating a Sexual Assault Climate Survey for MA Colleges and Universities (H2998): This act will establish a 17-member sexual assault task force to develop a model sexual assault climate survey using peer-reviewed best practice research. This survey will be used by higher ed institutions to gauge the reality of sexual violence on their individual campuses.
- An Act criminalizing sexual assault by fraud by a medical professional (S835/H2289): This law adds provisions to punish medical professionals who sexually assault a patient/client in the course of diagnosis, counseling, or treatment, including when consent to the act was given under false representation.
Learn more about BARCC’s legislative priorities here, and sign up for e-mail updates on our policy and legislative advocacy.