History of LWVTX Action on Domestic Violence and Spousal Rape

History of LWVTX Action on Domestic Violence and Spousal Rape

Explanation: Domestic Violence

Domestic violence was chosen by 1983 state Convention delegates for statewide study, and members adopted the first LWV-TX position regarding domestic violence in 1985. The first WUTL domestic violence position called for adequate state and local funding for programs to reduce the incidence of domestic violence and alleviate its effects. Because the League's position was limited to support of adequate funding, LWV-TX advocates were unable to act on domestic violence bills that went beyond funding during the 1985 session. To remedy that situation, a second domestic violence study focusing on the legal system was selected by delegates at Convention `85. The current, expanded domestic violence position statement was adopted in June 1986.

As a result of legislation enacted in 1995, the 1994-97 Periodic Program Review committee eliminated several provisions dealing with protective orders and added one concerning creation of, and funding for, a central Protective Orders Registry.

Convention 2006 recommended that the position should not read "reduce" domestic violence, but to "eliminate" it. Revised wording was put forward as an item of concurrence in Program Planning, fall 2007, agreed to unanimously, and adopted by the board in January, 2008.

History: Domestic Violence 1987-1989:

In the 1987 and 1989 legislative sessions, LWV-TX supported successful bills to reduce the cost and improve the accessibility of protective orders to victims of family violence and to tighten their enforcement. In the 1989 session, League efforts included strong support for a successful omnibus protective order bill and a bill providing for the incremental upgrading of offense classification and punishment for subsequently occurring acts of domestic violence. Funding was secured with passage of Lt. Governor Hobby's Anti-Crime Plan.

1991-1993: LWV-TX supported its domestic violence position through membership in the Texas Council on Family Violence. An important achievement of the 1993 session was passage of the so-called "stalking" bill which provides a means for victims to report an individual's harassment before actually experiencing physical injury, thus giving the law enforcement system the ability to protect potential victims of domestic violence.

1995: With League support, the 74th session of the Texas legislature amended the Code of Penal Procedure to create a legal exception to the spousal adverse testimony privilege. The Senate Interim Committee on Domestic Violence had strongly recommended creation of the exception to prevent perpetrators of family violence from hiding behind the shield of "spousal privilege," thus escaping successful prosecution and conviction. Another significant measure enacted during this session created a statewide central registry for protective orders through the Texas Department of Public Safety.

1997: A strengthened anti-stalking bill was passed early in the session, followed by several proactive bills to assist survivors of domestic violence. One measure authorizes the Department of Human Services to develop procedures to assist family violence survivors who are welfare recipients, while another bill will use a small increase in court-filing fees to provide basic legal services to the indigent, many of whom are battered women and children. Two bills that would have made it more difficult for women to escape abusive marriages were defeated. A bill that would have authorized the creation and distribution to all public schools of an anti-violence curriculum did not get out of committee.

1999: Advocates scored significant victories during the 76th Legislature. There were significant increases in appropriations to the Department of Human Services Family Violence Program and to Battering Intervention and Prevention Programs. Legislation passed making it more difficult for batterers to obtain custody and/or visitation of children.

2001: The League supported a bill, signed by the governor, which provides that as of September 1, it is illegal in Texas for those under final protective order for family violence and those convicted of family violence crimes to possess guns.

Explanation and History: Spousal Sexual Assault

A study of Spousal Rape was adopted in 1981 and the position was adopted in 1982. The Spousal Rape position was studied by the 1995-97 Periodic Program Review Committee, which modified the original position to reflect a law passed in 1993 that eliminated marital rape exemptions. Although the original position has been achieved, it was retained to allow the League to advocate against possible future attempts to reinstate the old law. Retaining the position also allows local Leagues to support their police departments' and district attorneys' efforts to prosecute accused rapists diligently, regardless of the marital status of the parties. The 2003 Convention requested LWV-TX develop a publication with updated information on this position. At Convention 2010, delegates voted to change the name to Spousal Sexual Assault to conform to language in the current criminal code and statutes.

1980's: LWV-TX supported successful bills making sexual assault of a spouse illegal where the married persons lived apart or had filed for divorce. New laws were enacted, defining crimes of sexual assault committed by a spouse. These measures required a showing of bodily injury or threat of bodily injury for criminal prosecution against a spouse.

1993: The 73rd session of the Texas legislature passed a law mandating that all sexual assault victims be treated equally and eliminating all marital rape exemptions.

2004: Written information for members about the League's positions on spousal rape and the status of current law regarding the subject appeared in the Spring 2004 Texas Voter.

2019. The 86 th Legislative Session passed several bills which LWVTX supported to assist law
enforcement with prosecution of domestic violence and sexual assault cases. The Lavina Masters Act mandates that rape kits must be tested at a lab within 90 days after it receives the evidence. If the evidence has not been tested by a forensic lab, the statute of limitations (the timeframe in which a case must be presented to a Grand Jury) for sexual assault cases is tolled. Rape kits cannot be
destroyed by the state for 40 years after receipt or until the statute of limitations runs, whichever is
later. And Rachel's Law, allows district attorneys to file continuous family violence charges against an offender if the act takes place in more than one county.

Lawmakers gave law enforcement more tools to investigate domestic violence cases. The passage ofS.B. 586 increases mandatory law enforcement training hours regarding sexual assault, child abuse and family violence to ensure that the training includes the use of best practices and trauma-
informed techniques to effectively recognize, document, and investigate these types of cases.
Texas will now have a Protective Order Registry. This centralized internet-based registry will track
applications for protective orders and protective orders issued in this state. A portion of the registry
will also be set up for restricted use by law enforcement to help protect victims of domestic violence.

The public will be able to access limited information about issued protective orders at no cost.  
Financial abuse—a previously overlooked form of domestic violence--was proactively addressed in
this session.  Two bills that LWVTX supported through testimony and Action Alerts will now be law.

S.B. 234 gives victims of family violence a right to vacate and avoid residential lease liability while S.B. 2697 is the first law to address coercive debt, providing a legal remedy for persons victimized by financial crimes (identity theft, credit card fraud, etc.).