WHAT IS THE FEMZ AGENDA?
In the 2017 session, we were proud that our Deeds’ advocates were instrumental in supporting the passage of key legislation to create a safer environment on college campuses and create a statewide human trafficking prevention curriculum in our public high schools. This past session, we continued to advocate for an agenda that prevented sexual assault and expanded gender equity through our FEMZ Agenda.
Under the FEMZ Agenda, we created a more equitable framework through legislation that assured:
- Freedom from sexual assault
- Economic opportunity through wage equity and reproductive autonomy
- Maternal health and Menstrual equity
- All powered by Generation Z
The FEMZ Agenda isn’t a female agenda, it’s a feminist one that seeks gender equity, regardless of orientation or identity. We hope that with these legislative reforms, increased opportunities will be made possible for all identities.
THIS 2019 LEGISLATIVE SESSION, OUR CHANGEMAKERS PASSED 18 BILLS INTO LAW!
Those laws range from greater safety for young women and men on our college campuses, educational supports for our teachers and administrators in public schools who need resources to help young people suffering from sexual trauma, a longer statute of limitation to prosecute sexual assaults, an audit of our rape-kit backlog and record-level funding to cure the back-log, better prevention of and response to sex trafficking and so much more. Our #Changemakers provided over 80 testimonies on over 30 bills and were instrumental in helping legislators to see the human consequences of their decisions. Using the power of their personal narratives, these #Changemakers shaped understanding and outcomes.
Read more about the new laws that will improve the lives of womxn in Texas:
1. Training Superintendents & School Board Members
HB 403 Rep. Thompson
HB 403 requires superintendents and independent school district board members to complete one hour of training on recognizing and reporting potential victims of sexual assault, sex trafficking, and maltreatment every two years. The bill would also require superintendents to complete similar training for 2-2.5 hours every five years as part of continuing education training.
2. Sensitivity Training for Peace Officers on Sexual Assault
SB 586 Sen. Watson
SB 586 requires state, county, special district, and municipal agencies that appoint or employ peace officers to provide training every 48 months that teaches officers to recognize, document, and investigate sexual assault using the best practices and trauma informed techniques.
3. Disciplinary Notation on Transcripts
HB 449 Rep. Turner
HB 449 requires colleges and universities to indicate on a student’s transcript if they were suspended or expelled. It also requires that in the event the student withdrawal from the school during a pending investigation, the institution continue the investigation process until making a final determination of responsibility. A school may remove the suspension or expulsion from a student’s transcript if the student has requested so, the conditions of the suspension have been fulfilled, and there is a good reason to remove the suspension or expulsion record from the student’s transcript. Best example is the Baylor case. Where a student was found guilty of sexually assaulting another student, and transferred to UTD without a notation in their transcript—and he repeated his offense at UTD.
4. The Lavinia Masters Act
HB 8 Rep. Neave
The rape kit backlog in Texas is serious. Lavinia Masters’ rape kit containing the biological evidence from her assault sat on a shelf for 21 years instead of being tested, way past the 10-year statute of limitations. This bill would require an audit to determine the number, status and location of all rape kits in Texas, so kits don’t get lost in the shuffle like Lavinia’s once did. This bill prevents law enforcement from destroying rape kits in uncharged or unsolved cases before the statute of limitations ends or 50 years passes, whichever is longer. And a survivor will have five years to decide whether or not she wants to press charges before her kit is thrown out. It also puts the 10 year statute of limitations on pause unless and until a collected rape-kit is tested. Our #Changemaker Ashka Dighe is SUPER pumped this bill is moving forward and says that, “The mandating of prompt testing and suggesting an extended period of maintaining rape kits is a clear step in the right direction to protect survivors autonomy and ensure that cases such as Lavinia Masters’ do not continue to happen.”
5. Student Loan Default
HB 37 Sen. Zaffirini
SB 37 doesn’t allow a student that has defaulted on their student loans to lose their professional license. This is a great thing, since the only way for a student to pay off their debt, is to be allowed to practice the profession that put them in debt in the first place. Our Movement Mujer Fellow, Marla Lopez, said it best, “It makes absolutely no sense to revoke a license because a student defaults on their loan. Doing so fails to account for different levels of economic opportunity, and has the potential to keep young people from climbing the economic ladder and staying out of poverty.
I represent many students, some with more to lose than others perhaps, but we as students and young adults are most influenced by SB 37.”
6. Telemedicine for SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners)
SB 71 Sen. Nelson
Although many of us live in cities with adequate healthcare services, most Texas counties don’t. This bill would allow nurses who do not have the training to conduct a Sexual Assault Forensic Exam, or the evidence collection after sexual assault, to work with nurses who do have this training through telemedicine. It’s kind of like FaceTime but for healthcare providers, and would expand access to this service in Texas.
Our Legislative intern Jasmine Owen boldly and rightly says that, “Just because most Texas communities are not served by a sexaul assault nurse examiner, does not mean that sexual assault does not happen in those communities. The purpose of technology is to help us in our daily lives, at work, and to progress as a society. The availability of telemedicine makes it easier to provide underserved Texas communities with sexual assault nurse examiners.”
7. Training Teachers on Signs of Sexual Assault
HB 111 Rep. M. Gonzalez
This bill ensures that every public and charter school teacher and official have adequate training to recognize signs of sexual assault, sex trafficking and other maltreatment in students, including students with cognitive disabilities. Our St. Edwards #Changemaker and chapter president of It’s on Us says, “Lack of knowledge has dire consequences, that can create environments where risk factors are high for sexual violence to occur and create a culture where those experiencing violence are blamed.“
8. Criminalizing Revenge Porn
HB 98 Rep. M. Gonzalez
This bill looks to make a person who releases intimate visual material responsible for damages resulting from the distribution of the intimate visual material if it was released without consent and with intent to harass, abuse, or embarrass the persons depicted in the material. Our #Changemaker, Sophie Jerwick says, “Revenge porn is the new way to harass, shame, and harm women in the digital age. It’s on our lawmakers to strengthen this stopgap against legal challenges that overlook the harmful intentions of revenge porn perpetrators.”
9. Postpartum Depression
HB 253 Rep. Farrar
Postpartum is a common and heavily stigmatized issue in women’s health. Studies estimate that as many as 1 in 5 women experience postpartum depression, but many do not seek care because the condition is shamed, as women are supposed to feel only happiness with their new child. Rep. Farrar’s bill with create a statewide “five-year strategic plan to improve access to screening, referral, treatment, and support services for postpartum depression.” Ashley Kahn shared her story and relationship with her mother in committee and said, “ [Motherhood] brought forth debilitating anxiety, polypharmaceutical addictions, and other mental illnesses that have rendered her unable to cope with life. It was her postpartum depression that kicked off her downward spiral and contributed to my later suffering.”
10. Reimbursements for SAFE (Sexual Assault Forensic Examination) Exams
HB 616 Rep. Neave
HB 616 looks to allow health care providers to submit applications for reimbursement of costs for providing forensic medical examinations of sexual assault survivors directly to the attorney general. If the government isn’t covering the cost, the bill falls onto law enforcement and the Department of Public Safety, dissuading those departments from using SAFE exams to solve cases. Sophie Jerwick believes that “This is why any and all barriers to obtaining a rape kit, tracking that kit, keeping that kit, getting the results of that kit need to be peeled away by state of Texas. This bill deals with the payment process for SAFE exams. Right now, the burden falls on law enforcement to pay for the exam. This is a deterrent, maybe even a subconscious one, encouraging these officers to mark cases as unsolvable instead of paying the price to obtain the kit.”
11. House Version of Texas IX [SB 585]
HB 1735 Rep. Howard
Ashka Dighe testified for this bill, and brought attention to the reporting process and lack of educated advocates around Title IX, “When a student is participating in a Title IX investigation, regardless of the nature of their involvement, there are several decisions they have to make while they are also going through an incredibly difficult time in their lives. Complainants, respondents, and witnesses in a Title IX investigation all have the right to an advisor who can sit with them in meetings and provide counsel. However, the way that the system is structured right now provides very little criteria for who can serve as an advisor.”
College campuses should have clear policies against sexual assault and tell students about them. Can you believe that’s not already mandatory? Under this bill, schools must define sexual assault & harassment, dating violence, and stalking, and make sure students know these policies and the repercussions of violating them. Colleges also need to make survivor resources clear. Students need someone to whom they can confidentially report and to know that they can report their assault to their university without filing a police complaint, for example. These are basic, overdue protections
AMAZING JOB #CHANGEMAKERS. This bill (as well as Sen. Watson’s SB 585) received almost unanimous “aye’s” thanks to y’all!
12. Justice for Childhood Survivors
HB 3809 Rep. Goldman
HB 3809 seeks to extend the statute of limitations to 30 years (currently 15 years) begining at the age of 18, for child sex abuse victims to decide if they want to take legal actions against people or organizations that failed to protect them. The vast majority of sexual assault survivors will not come forward due to a laundry list of reasons; among them is a distrust of the reporting system and the institutions that fail to protect survivors. Our #Changemaker, Sophie Jerwick testified on this bill by saying, “all sexual assault survivors fear that their report will become public and ostracize them socially, whether that means disownment from a religious institution, family unit, social organization, or competitive sport. To them, the risk of losing everything, combined with serious doubts that a disciplinary body will believe them, turns them away from reporting.” This bill was brought on by former USA National team gymnasts who experienced heinous child, sexual abuse at the hands of Larry Nassar.
There is a current bill amendment that exempts “third parties” or organizations such as churches and sports groups from this extended statute of limitations. We are against this amendment. Which means that the USA gymnastics who knew about Dr. Nassar’s behavior and turned a blind eye, will likely go without being held responsible, since the average age at which a child abuse victim discloses the abuse is 52. Leaving most victims unable to seek justice in Texas’ civil courts.
We are in support of Sen. Watson’s amendment that restores the original language including 30 years statute of limitations applied to organizations and third parties.
13. Reporting Guidelines for Sexual Assault
SB 212 Sen. Huffman
SB 212 looks to require timely reporting of incidents of sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking; it requires timely reporting of this information while keeping victims anonymous, and protects those who report incidents against disciplinary action. SB 212 provides for the termination of employees who fail to promptly report incidents, or falsely report incidents.
14. Mammogram Coverage
HB 170 Rep. Bernal
Mammogram coverage is key to women’s health and breast cancer prevention. Talking public health and preventative care, this bill ensures that we are spending less as a state overall because women can catch there cancer earlier and avoid the more aggressive and expensive treatments. Screening mammograms are covered by most insurance plans and detect abnormalities, whereas diagnostic mammograms are used after to diagnose the abnormality. This bill ensures that insurance plans covering screening mammograms also cover the diagnostics.
Thanks to #Changemaker, Nicole Eversmann for her testimony and personal story. We stand with her when she says, “To overcharge women for diagnostic mammograms deters them from accessing trusted physician’s opinions on their health concerns and can delay potential treatment and recovery timelines. Because of the deeply emotional impact that Breast Cancer has had on my life and the lives of many people I know, I urge the Representatives of this great state to vote in favor”
15. Sexual Assault Policies
HB 1590 Rep. Howard
Sexual assault and rape are the most under reported crimes, point blank. Survivors are often overwhelmed by the many moving pieces of the criminal justice system, and this uncertainty can feel like putting one’s most vulnerable experience into a black box. This bill establishes a governmental entity for survivors to contact to learn about the reporting process, resources, and evidence collection, and facilitate communication between state agencies that are involved with sexual assault survivors’ cases.
16. Menstrual Products in Jail
HB 2169 Reps: Allen, Rosenthal, Wu, Ramos, Neave
Menstrual products are as essential, but because only women use them and they’re stigmatized, they’re not provided in public places. While incarcerated, women don’t have many opportunities to make a buck, much less, pay for tampons. Right now, women have to buy their tampons from commissary while imprisoned. This bill will make tampons and pads available to inmates, just like toilet paper.
17 / 18. Pregnant Women In Jail
HB 1561 Reps: Gonzalez, Mary, White, Anderson, Charles “Doc”
HB 650 Reps: White, Klick, Howard, Neave, Meza
Over 200,000 women are currently incarcerated and about 5-10% of them enter jail while pregnant. This means that over 2,00 babies are born to incarcerated women annually. Because prisons do not have obstetric care, this means women are taken to outside facilities for maternal care and birth, at which point they are often shackled to the bed, around the waist, legs, or wrists.
Can you imagine giving birth while shackled? This bill is meant to change healthcare for incarcerated women. Correctional officers will now be trained on medical and mental care for pregnant women. Here are some of the highlights in this bill:
- Pregnant women will no longer be subjected to invasive body cavity searches unless conducted by a medical professional.
- Inmates will no longer be restrained during labor or 31 days after.
- Their visitation for children under 18 will be increased to 2x/week. Women will receive pregnancy & parenting education and prenatal vitamins.
- Invasive searches by men in areas where women are not clothed will be restricted.
- Housing will be accommodated for pregnant women, for example, bottom bunk assignments.
- Female hygiene products will be provided.