In preparation for Sanctuary Advocacy Day on April 30, we’re unveiling our 2019 legislative agenda. Tomorrow, we’ll thank State lawmakers in Albany for their support of important bills like the Cyber Sexual Abuse law and the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act which passed earlier this session and urge them to enact additional measures that would offer increased legal protections to survivors of domestic violence and sex trafficking and people in prostitution, as well as immigrants who seek assistance from our courts.
Among the key measures on our legislative agenda are:
Rape Shield Law
A.2240 Rosenthal / S.5070 Parker
Sanctuary for Families strongly supports bill A. 2240 / S. 5070 which would expand the rape shield law to include protections for individuals who have a history of trafficking or prostitution. New York’s rape shield law currently protects most victims of sex offenses by limiting introduction of evidence pertaining to the survivor’s sexual history. However, survivors of sex trafficking or prostitution are exempt from these protections. Consequently, survivors of rape or other sexual offenses are at high risk of being portrayed as less credible if they have ever been prostituted or sex trafficked, making it harder to prosecute the offenders. They are also more likely to suffer greater re-traumatization.
Anywhere from 60% to 90% of people in prostitution are raped, not always by johns or pimps. These survivors should have the same legal protections as other sexual assault survivors.
A.982 Gottfried / S.3181 Lanza
In 2010, New York State became a national leader when it allowed survivors of trafficking to vacate their prostitution-related convictions. This law has helped many whose criminal convictions have had devastating consequences on their ability to reintegrate into society.
While laudable, this remedy falls short. Too often, victims of human trafficking are criminally prosecuted for many acts – like drug possession, theft and fraud – that they were forced to commit by abusive pimps. This measure would allow the court to vacate certain convictions under these circumstances. This relief would be life-changing for survivors who continue to bear the burden of a criminal record for acts in which they were compelled to engage.
A.0654 Paulin / S.2253 Hoylman
Sanctuary for Families strongly supports this measure which would repeal Penal Law § 240.37, Loitering for the Purpose of Engaging in a Prostitution Offense. In their direct work, Sanctuary has seen how this statute has been used as a discriminatory tactic, enforced arbitrarily and targeting marginalized and mostly minority communities at risk of abuse and exploitation. The repercussions of arrest and conviction, even for a seemingly low-level offense, can be devastating. Convictions can prevent an individual from obtaining employment or housing. For immigrant survivors of sex trafficking, even an arrest that is dismissed can negatively impact immigration status, and subject the person to risk of deportation. The current loitering statute causes irreparable harm and its repeal would send a strong signal that New York State values civil rights, dignity and due process.
Protect Our Courts Act
A.02176 Solages / S.00425 Hoylman
This bill would prohibit Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) agents from making civil arrests in and around New York State courthouses without a judicial warrant or court order.
75% of the gender violence and sex trafficking survivors served at Sanctuary for Families are immigrants who rely on the courts for orders of protection, child custody and other support. Some are witnesses in criminal cases against their abusers. ICE’s presence in New York’s courthouses and the mere threat of detention and deportation spreads fear and deters many immigrants from seeking the protections that are rightfully theirs.
“New York has been a leader in its response to sex trafficking, gender violence and harsh immigration policies. By passing these measures, we will continue to set the benchmark for other states. We applaud the effort of Assemblymembers Rosenthal, Gottfried, Paulin and Solages, and Senators Parker, Lanza and Hoylman – and so many of their colleagues for the courage and insight they have shown concerning the needs of gender violence survivors and members of our immigrant communities. We urge the legislature and Governor Cuomo to make sure these measures become law this session.”
Hon. Judy Kluger
Executive Director, Sanctuary for Families