A bill to require teaching affirmative consent in schools passed the Senate Education Committee unanimously on Wednesday. HB 43, Affirmative Consent Policy in Schools, will, if enacted, mandate that all public and charter schools in New Mexico teach affirmative consent as part of the mandatory health class students already take in middle school or high school. State Rep. Elizabeth “Liz” Thomson, D-Albuquerque, is the primary sponsor but another Albuquerque Democrat, state Sen. Harold Pope, presented the bill on her behalf. Expert witness Alexandria Taylor, executive director of New Mexico Coalition for Sexual Assault Programs, said some schools already provide affirmative consent to students but the decision of whether its taught can often rest with the individual teachers and some do not. “No one is talking with them about how to have healthy relationships.
A bill that will help fill gaps created by reduced federal funding for sexual assault services in New Mexico passed the House Health and Human Services Committee with no opposition on Wednesday. HB 133, Recruit Sexual Assault Service Providers, will, if enacted, provide $2 million from the general fund for Fiscal Year 2024 to New Mexico to recruit and retain sexual assault service providers in New Mexico. The New Mexico Crime Victims Reparation Commission would receive the funding. Rep. Christine Trujillo, D-Albuquerque, is the primary sponsor of the bill but Rep. Liz Thomson, also a Democrat from Albuquerque, presented the bill before the committee on Trujillo’s behalf. “This is a very simple bill,” Thomson said.
A bill that will require New Mexico health classes to include instruction on affirmative consent before and during sexual activity passed the House Judiciary Committee unanimously, 9 to 0, on Monday. HB 43, Affirmative Consent Policy in Schools, sponsored by House Rep. Liz Thomson, D-Albuquerque, will, if enacted, require affirmative consent to be taught across all New Mexico public and charter schools in either middle or high school health class. The bill also requires higher educational institutions to implement trauma-informed policies that meet an affirmative consent standard. The bill, which has received broad bipartisan support in previous years, received very little discussion among committee members. House Rep. Andrea Reeb, R-Clovis, asked questions around if a higher education institution would initiate a criminal prosecution if the institution failed to meet the standard.
The House Education Committee passed the Affirmative Consent bill 8-2 on Wednesday. The bill, HB 43, sponsored by state Rep. Liz Thomson, D-Albuquerque, would, if enacted, require New Mexico public schools to provide educational training on what affirmative consent means when engaging in sexual activity. The schools, which already require a health credit, Thomson said during the committee hearing, would incorporate the education during the students’ required health class. The educational training would require students to learn such things as that an individual who is passed out, unable to speak or who says “no” is not providing affirmative consent to sexual activity. Jess Clark, director of prevention for New Mexico Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs, said during the hearing that he taught affirmative consent for 10 years across northern New Mexico schools and that hearing a teacher explain affirmative consent in the classroom can be the “first move to access support” for a sexual assault survivor.
The 2022 federal reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act has been hailed as good news, but there are problems it doesn’t solve. President Joe Biden signed VAWA reauthorization earlier this spring. The last time U.S. Congress reauthorized it was in 2013. It is supposed to be reauthorized every five years. It provides millions of dollars to every state to help fund services to victims of gender-based violence.
While the federal reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act will ensure services for victims for several more years, victims will likely still struggle due to New Mexico’s “legal desert.”
VAWA] provides funding to state and local programming and agencies to help those who suffer gender-based violence. The U.S. Congress last reauthorized it in 2013. President Joe Biden signed the 2022 reauthorization this spring and it is expected to help with issues such as sex trafficking, missing and murdered Indigenous women and relatives, sexual assault and housing and it expands programming to include the LGBTQIA+ community. Related: What the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization means for the LGBTQ community
New Mexico ranks as seventh in the nation for the rate of sexual assault. Alexandria Taylor, director of Sexual Assault Services at the New Mexico Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs, said one factor in what she has called a “crisis” is New Mexico’s legal desert. The majority of victims don’t report but for those who do, Taylor told NM Political Report that 93 percent of the cases are dismissed.
Expansions in the Violence Against Women Act, signed by President Joe Biden this spring, recognize the LGBTQ community for the first time. Initially enacted in 1994, VAWA improves responses to gender-based violence through federal dollars to various state and local programs and agencies, including the courts. Congress last reauthorized the legislation in 2013. This spring, Biden signed the 2022 reauthorization, which is expected to help with such issues as sex trafficking, missing and murdered Indigenous women and relatives, sexual assault and housing and it expands programming to include the LGBTQ community for the first time. Marshall Martinez, executive director of Equality New Mexico, called the inclusion in VAWA funding “a big victory.”
“The first thing that is important to know is this is the first time LGBTQ folks specifically are included in VAWA.
With federal funding cuts expected by the next fiscal year, New Mexico sexual assault programming is considering how the shortage could impact the future. The New Mexico Crime Victims Reparation Commission receives $4 million in recurring funding from the state to provide money to local sexual assault services. This year, the commission and the New Mexico Coalition for Sexual Assault Programs asked for $5 million in additional funding from the Legislature to fill gaps in services, improve salaries and prepare for the anticipated loss in federal dollars. But, the coalition did not receive all the money it asked for from the New Mexico legislature. In addition to the recurring $4 million, the legislature appropriated about $3.8 million in funding.
When the sun comes up, a sexual assault nurse examiner could be coming home from investigating a case after getting a call in the early hours of the morning. Autumn Skinner, a Portales-based sexual assault nurse examiner, has had to drive outside of the seven-county region she serves due to a lack of sexual assault nurse examiners [known as SANEs] in rural areas across the state. She has had to drive three hours one way to examine a victim and she has had to ask victims to meet her at a hospital halfway due to the distance. “I’ve gone out to Union County in the middle of the night and not come home until the sun comes up,” she said. Some programs in the state lack the means to offer on-call SANE care for victims, she said.
By a vote of 7-0, the Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee unanimously passed SB 197, which, if passed and signed by the governor, would provide the full $5 million request for sexual assault services across the state which advocates have said is crucial. State Sen. Siah Correa Hemphill, D-Silver City, is sponsoring SB 197. State Sen. Antoinette Sedillo-Lopez, D-Albuquerque, is a co-sponsor and spoke during the committee hearing about the importance of the request because some federal funding for sexual assault services is expected to no longer be available as of Fiscal Year 2023. Alexandria Taylor, director of Sexual Assault Services for the New Mexico Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs, said that HB 2, the General Appropriations Act of 2022, provides $2.6 million to New Mexico Crime Victim Reparation Commission. “We’re asking for the remaining $2.4 million to be put in,” Taylor said of SB 197.