By a Biometrica staffer
On Wednesday, July 21, a legislator in Wisconsin proposed what’s known as “Kayleigh’s Law” in the state legislature to help protect certain sexual assault victims from their attackers. The proposed bill would allow those who have been victims of serious crimes, including sexual assault and kidnapping, to petition the court for their convicted assaulters’ restraining orders to last a lifetime.
Kayleigh’s Law was passed earlier this year in Arizona and was inspired by Kayleigh Kozak, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. “He was my PE teacher, my soccer coach, and he groomed me and did things that he should not have done,” Kozak told NBC15. She came forward when she was 14 years old, after which her assailant was convicted. But last year, she heard his probation could end.
“I asked what protection would be in place for me once his probation was terminated, and I learned there was nothing. There was no such thing as protection that comes after probation is terminated. A victim’s direct protection falls within the terms of their probation. I cannot believe it was an all-or-nothing case scenario,” she told Spectrum News. Kozak believes the law can prevent assaulters from re-inserting themselves into the lives of their victims. With the law in place, there will be direct consequences for attackers if they violate those terms.
Arizona became the first state to offer this kind of protection to victims of sexual assault on April 20, and its straightforward, two-page law could be used as a blueprint in Wisconsin. The latter proposal was put forth by State Rep. Barbara Dittrich in the Wisconsin State Legislature. It would allow for a lifetime restraining order to protect survivors of first, second, or third degree sexual assault, as well as in cases of an “individual [being] at risk.”
Currently, a restraining order can be issued for up to four years for an adult, and up to two years for a child. The orders can be extended by four years for adults and two years for children, with the option for 10 years and five years, respectively, if there is a substantial risk to the survivor.
“The trauma victims experience, most often, remains with them an entire lifetime, and as the battle against human trafficking is a bipartisan issue with bipartisan support, this simple but critical legislation just makes sense,” Dittrich told reporters at a press conference to announce the proposed bill.
In Arizona, Kayleigh’s law received overwhelming bipartisan support. But media reports say it is too soon to predict what may happen in Wisconsin, as the proposal has been circulated for co-sponsorship from other lawmakers only recently.
Nearly one in five high school students in Wisconsin reported that someone has forced them “to do sexual things they did not want to do,” Dittrich said in a statement published on her Twitter account, citing Youth Risk Behavior Survey data. At the national level, one in three women and one in six men have experienced sexual violence in their lifetime, her statement adds, citing a National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey.
To be sure, the statistics surrounding sexual assault are horrific. An American is sexually assaulted every 68 seconds, and younger people are at the highest risk of sexual violence, according to anti-sexual violence organization RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network).
Women and girls experience sexual violence at higher rates, but it also does affect other genders, especially those who identify as transgender, genderqueer, or gender nonconforming. When it comes to ethnicity, Native Americans are at the greatest risk of sexual violence according to RAINN, as they are twice as likely to experience a rape/sexual assault when compared with all other races.
As Kozak said: “No victim should ever have to re-face their abuser to fight for the protection that they rightfully deserve, and now in the state of Arizona, they no longer have to. I am so happy to say that this is a law in Arizona, but Arizona is not enough because victims everywhere matter to me. It is my mission to get this law passed nationally.”