Sexual assault victims bill sent to Gov. Haslam's desk

(WBIR) A proposed bill that would protect the identity of sexual assault victims in Tennessee is on its way to Governor Bill Haslam's desk.

The House passed HB 2361 earlier this month, and the Senate followed suit with SB 2254 on Wednesday.

Public records would still name the victim of a sex-related crime. But if the defendant had been found guilty in the case, the victim's name and information would then become private.

Channel 10 does not report the identities of rape victims.

Opponents of the bill say it makes it harder for the media to report on rape cases, and tell stories that may otherwise go untold.

"No other crime victim has that same confidentiality and the public, I feel like, has a right to know about the crime that happens in their community," said Deborah Fisher, executive director of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government.

Fisher said they are pleased the bill that passed is a scaled back version from the original, which was much broader.

Sen. Becky Duncan Massey, R-Knoxville, authored the Senate version of the bill. Supporters of it said it should be the victim's choice.

"Many times these are some of the few people who have to convince others that a crime has occurred. So they're in a very special situation, I think. And they should be in charge of the disclosure of their name," said Ginger Evans, a sexual assault nurse examiner at the Sexual Assault Center of East Tennessee.

Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch is also a vocal supporter of the bill. Chief Rausch has spoken to legislators on behalf of the Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police.

He told 10News during a phone interview the bill is not focused on the media but the people who choose to further victimize sexual assault victims.

According to Chief Rausch, victims can choose to opt out and keep their information available after the case is closed. But this proposed bill gives them the power to choose.

The Senate unanimously passed the bill on Wednesday.


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