New reforms to support sexual assault survivors

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Program for Aid to Victims of Sexual Assault (PAVSA), the Duluth Police and St. Louis County Attorney’s Office unveiled new changes made to help victims of sexual assault, saying the goal is to help survivors to step forward and report their attack.

The unveiling done to mark this year’s sexual assault awareness month speaks of the trauma experienced by a victims of sexual assault which is hard to fully comprehend unless you have gone through it.

The executive director of PAVSA, Sarah Nieme said this is about giving victims of sexual assault more help and more confidence to report. She added that the public awareness campaign has three important reforms and it is called “A Step Forward”.

As a victim it’s about knowing your rights and starting the process of holding your attacker accountable. According to Nathaniel Stumme, the head of Duluth criminal division at the St. Louis County Attorney’s Office here are the main highlights of the changes.

“We have ended the statute of limitations for most criminal sexual conduct offenses in Minnesota going forward. There was no longer a time limit on charging these offenses. Victim age thresholds that are used to make charges more serious have been increased across the board from 13 to 14 years old. There is a whole new category of offenses called sexual extortion. The definition of significant relationship has been updated to include basically any present or former person in a romantic relationship with the victim’s parent”

The Duluth Chief of Police, Michael Ceynowa said they are ready to support victims saying “”victims now have the option, if and when they’re ready to report”

Mayor Emily Larson there after read the proclamation officially declaring the month of April 2023 as Sexual Assault Awareness Month in the City of Duluth.

The director of Pavsa further stated that there is now a track-kit platform, a secure web-based portal that allows victim-survivors to track their evidence from the hospital to the state crime laboratory.

They also added that the new safeguards will help prevent backlog of sexual assault kits and they are also pushing out the message via billboards and advertisements on DTA buses.