Steps are being taken to ensure survivors of sexual violence are provided advocacy services when receiving medical attention following an assault.
On April 25th, Senate Bill 795 passed the Oregon Senate 29-0. The bill would oblige medical staff and law enforcement to contact an advocate when survivors of sexual assault seek medical services. The bill would reinforce best practices, allowing advocates to introduce their services to survivors, and giving survivors the choice to have an advocate present, or not.
The bill reads:
“Requires medical assessment provider or law enforcement officer to contact victim advocate and make reasonable efforts to ensure that victim advocate is present and available at medical facility.”
Seeking services following an assault or undergoing a Sexual Assault Forensic Exam can be extremely difficult. It takes incredible strength to go through a process that is often both emotionally and physically invasive. Victim advocates are trained to provide confidential emotional support, validation, information, and options to survivors, to help them navigate that experience.
In a culture where the importance of emotional welfare and trauma-informed response still struggles to gain widespread popularity and acceptance, laws like SB 795 are immensely important. While reactions like blame, shame, invalidation, and lack of support actually increase trauma for survivors, it should be no surprise that interfacing with empathetic, trauma-informed services can help mitigate the negative effects of trauma. Yet, advocacy response is still not standard, particularly outside of larger metro areas, such as Multnomah, Clackamas, and Washington Counties.
In Washington County, SARC has a growing community of volunteer advocates who are compassionate, kind, and ready to provide support and resources. Advocacy services similar to SARC exist throughout the state. Our work, together with many sexual assault and domestic violence agencies, continues to push for an end to sexual violence. Supporting bills such as SB 795 directly influences that mission.
So, what can you do?
Call your House Representatives and show your support for this bill. Ask them if they plan to vote “yes.” Let your elected representatives know how this bill impacts you or others.
Then call your Senators and thank them for voting “yes.”
Support the Oregon Sexual Assault Task Force, for helping create and promote legislation that supports survivors.
> Track the progress of SB 795
Want to Become an advocate? Please see our application.
Photo credit: @Jasperdo, Flickr