Last week’s U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearings with Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh were at times inspiring and at times infuriating. Dr. Ford was credible and confident when recounting the trauma she lived through and has carried for decades. Meanwhile, Judge Kavanaugh’s irate and dishonest testimony made it clear he does not have the temperament to serve on the Supreme Court.
Dr. Ford’s courage has rightly inspired thousands upon thousands of Americans across the country, but supporting her must go further than this one moment in time. The cultural changes advanced by the #MeToo movement are absolutely critical. Additionally, we must pursue policy changes that can help those impacted by sexual assault, violence, and harassment.
Last session, members of the House Democratic Caucus passed laws that took important steps to combat sexual assault. The Texas Association Against Sexual Assault (TAASA) has a comprehensive list — here’s a few examples to highlight.
- Rep. Victoria Neave passed HB 1729, creating a grant program to cover the costs of thousands of untested rape kits.
- Rep. Donna Howard passed HB 281, creating an electronic tracking system to track the location and status of sexual assault evidence kits statewide.
- Rep. Carol Alvarado passed SB 77 (HB 1766), which ensures that victims of abuse are not forced to co-parent with their attacker.
- Rep. Ana Hernandez passed HB 249, which ensured definitions for “abuse” and “neglect” were uniform across the Department of Family and Protective Services while also giving CPS authority to investigate cases of alleged abuse and neglect that occur at a child-care facility.
- Rep. Senfronia Thompson passed a series of laws — at least eight, according to TAASA — to help combat human trafficking and sexual offenders across the state.
- Rep. Ina Minjarez passed HB 2124 to ensure state and federal agencies share information about active duty members of the U.S. Armed forces under investigation for abuse or neglect.
- Rep. Terry Canales passed HB 822 designating April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and Reps. Joe Moody, Eddie Lucio III, Diego Bernal, and Gene Wu passed various House and Senate bills that will fix and improve processes in family law courts, public schools, and evidence collection.
Our caucus has accomplished a lot, and there is a lot left to be done — including necessary improvements of internal policies and practices at the Texas Capitol as it relates to sexual assault, violence, and harassment. As the HDC continues its work on public education, health care, and criminal justice in preparation for the 86th Regular Session, we are confident our caucus will keep the values and policies of the #MeToo movement front and center in our efforts.