Governor Larry Hogan Announces Initiatives to Protect, Empower Victims of Crime
Supports Termination of Rapists’ Parental Rights, Announces Proposals to Combat Human Trafficking and Repeat Predators, Protect Victim Information, Streamline Victim Restitution
ANNAPOLIS, MD – Governor Larry Hogan today announced a series of legislative proposals and an executive action to further protect, support, and empower victims of crime in Maryland. The governor’s initiatives include proposals to combat human trafficking and repeat sexual predators, as well as to aid in the restitution process and protect domestic violence victims’ personal information.
The governor was joined by Maryland State Board of Victim Services Chair Steve Kelly, Governor’s Family Violence Council Chair Jeanne Yeager, and Children’s Justice Act Committee Chair Arnold Eby, as well as Abby Joiner and Robin Sample, two survivors of domestic violence, and a number of victims assistance professionals, advocates, law enforcement officials, and legislators.
“The sad reality is that becoming a victim of a crime often shatters a person’s sense of security,” said Governor Hogan. “It can feel as if his or her entire world has been turned upside down, and – much too often – it can leave wounds that are unseen and which sometimes never truly or fully heal.”
The governor began by expressing his commitment to working with legislative leaders to pass the Rape Survivor – Family Protection Act, which will enable rape victims who conceive a child to terminate the parental rights of their rapist. The governor stated his support for expediting the legislation and pledged to sign it the moment it comes to his desk.
“No rapist should be allowed to maintain their rights as a parent, and no victim should ever be forced to interact with their attacker,” said the governor.
The governor announced several measures to target human trafficking, noting that Maryland has one of the highest volumes of calls to the National Human Trafficking Hotline in the nation. To ensure that information about resources to help these victims is as widespread as possible, he signed Executive Order 01.01.2018.02, which requires all state agencies and departments to prominently display information for the national hotline and the BeFree Textline on the homepages of their websites. He also issued a proclamation recognizing January as Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month and declaring January 11, 2018 as Human Trafficking Awareness Day in Maryland.
The governor then announced four legislative initiatives for the upcoming 2018 session of the Maryland General Assembly:
The Felony Human Trafficking Act of 2018 will classify felony human trafficking – cases in which the perpetrator trafficks a child or trafficks a victim with the intent to forcibly compel the victim to perform a sexual act – as a violent crime. This classification will ensure that offenders will serve more time in prison.
The Repeat Sexual Predator Prevention Act of 2018 mirrors legislation supported by the governor during the 2017 session and repeatedly proposed in the General Assembly for nearly a decade that has failed to pass despite widespread bipartisan support. The bill will allow courts to admit evidence of a criminal defendant’s prior history of sexual crimes or abuse if he or she is prosecuted for subsequent sexual offenses. It is widely documented that sexual predators follow patterns of behavior and rarely stop at a single victim.
The governor also proposed a measure strengthening the Maryland “Safe-at-Home” Address Confidentiality Program to enable victims of domestic violence to safely purchase a home without fear of their abuser finding their address. The program, created in 2006, provides a substitute address for victims of domestic violence, human trafficking, stalking, and sexual assault to use as a legal residential, school, or business address. The governor’s bill extends protection to deeds when a victim purchases a home, which was recommended by a task force created by legislation sponsored by Senator Susan Lee and chaired by Secretary of State John Wobensmith.
The governor’s final proposal will create a new victim services unit focused on restitution by centralizing data collection across state agencies. The new unit, which will be located in the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention, will act as a one-stop shop for victim notification and information regarding restitution. The legislation will also allow for an additional $800,000 in federal funds to go directly to Maryland victims each year.
“Our administration remains strongly committed to ensuring that victims of crime have the right to information, the right to be present, the right to provide input, the right to receive restitution, and – most importantly – the expectation of being treated with the dignity and the respect that they deserve,” said Governor Hogan. “These legislative initiatives will help protect our most vulnerable citizens, create an environment in which victims feel safe coming forward, and empower Maryland crime victims to heal and to rebuild their lives.”
Finally, the governor called on the legislature to sustain his veto of misguided legislation passed during the last session that would have prohibited colleges and universities from using an admissions application that contains any questions about a prospective student’s prior criminal history – including violent crimes. This ill-conceived legislation did not differentiate between individuals with a violent felony or sexual assault record from those with a non-violent misdemeanor on their record. It is estimated that as many as one in five women experience a sexual assault while attending college, many of which go unreported to police.
The initiatives announced today build on the Hogan-Rutherford administration’s commitment to supporting and empowering victims of crime. The administration has convened the first-ever governor’s statewide victim services conferences to facilitate collaboration and recognize leaders in the victims’ rights movement. Recognizing that victims often need financial assistance and resources to become self-sufficient, the administration has awarded nearly $100 million in federal and state funds to help victims and organizations. In addition, the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention has given $46 million in grants to directly aid victims of crime, fully funding every eligible request across the state and serving over 181,000 victims in Maryland in the past year alone.