‘Basic justice’ for sexual assault victims set to become law

With unanimous support in both the House and Senate, a bill to give sexual assault victims fair notice if their offender petitions to be removed from the sex offender registry is on its way to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.

Currently, sex offenders are only required to notify their local district attorney of their petition to be exempted from registering as a sex offender.

“If an offender wants to apply for lenience, the victims should have a say in the decision,” said Sen. Kirk Pearson, R-Monroe, the sponsor of the bill. “The judge making the decision should hear from the people who suffered at the hands of these offenders and the victim should be able to speak up for themselves. This is basic justice and an important protection for the victims.”

There is currently no process for victims of the abuse or the original prosecuting attorney on the case to be made aware of the offender’s petition, especially if it is submitted in a different jurisdiction. Senate Bill 5083 would require that the prosecuting attorney make reasonable effort to notify the victim of the offender’s petition for relief from registration.

One victim of sexual assault worked with Pearson to bring the bill forward. Bethany and her sisters survived years of abuse but faced the return of their fears when learning that their tormentor could be removed from the registry – a protection they relied on – with no notice.

“This can help everyone have the opportunity to fight the petition if they still think they need to,” said Bethany. “Some might not care, but my sisters and I went through so much abuse. It was his choice. He has to live with the consequences.”