Virginia lawmakers will be rolling up their sleeves to tackle a lot of work and proposals when they enter the new session of the General Assembly next week.
On Wednesday, Governor Tim Kaine proposed a sexual and domestic abuse reform package that will try to bring the Commonwealth up to speed with the federal Violence Against Women Act of 2005.
These reforms may be necessary in order for local crisis centers to continue operating. If some of Virginia's laws don't meet the requirements of the 2005 federal law, crisis centers could lose a lot federal money.
The proposals are based on recommendations from the Governor's Commission on Sexual Violence. While Virginia has taken steps to make sure offenders of a sexual assault are punished, Kaine is proposing to add measures to Virginia laws that would generate more focus on protecting the victim.
At the Collin's Center, a place that offers help to victims of sexual abuse, Director Giania Gariglietti says one item this proposed measure would eliminate is polygraphing victims.
"As you can imagine, if someone asks you to take a polygraph, the implication is that you're not telling the truth and for some reason, people believe more than of other crimes that people make up sexual assault, which isn't the case," says Gariglietti.
Other measures in Kaine's proposal include increasing the amount of funding for sexual assault crisis centers and closing a loophole in state law that allows someone who has sexually assaulted a girl between 14 to 16 years of age to marry the victim as a shield from prosecution.
Another provision would require instant reporting of protective orders to battered spouses to the state police crime database.
If Virginia can't comply with some of the requirements in the Violence Against Women's Act by 2009, crisis centers could lose out on millions of dollars in funding. Ninety percent of the Collin's Center's budget comes from federal funding, so this would be a big hit for them.
Gariglietti says, "There's a lot that we can do to really prevent it and so much money is spent on punishment after the fact, which of course is important, but if we can put money into prevention in the first place, then punishment won't be such a big issue."
In a lot of ways, the Collins Center is already doing some of these things, including helping law enforcement prepare what could possibly come in the future. The General Assembly will be back in session January 9.