Kaine seeks aid for rape victims

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RICHMOND (AP) — Gov. Tim Kaine wants to end the practice of subjecting sexual assault victims to lie detector tests and wants more money for crisis centers for those who suffer sexual violence.

The legislative package Mr. Kaine announced yesterday also would close a “marriage offer” loophole. Under current state law, men who sexually attack girls 14 to 16 years old can create a defense against criminal charges by subsequently offering to marry their underage victims.

Mr. Kaine also wants the state to pay for forensic medical examinations on sexual assault victims. The tests, which gather and preserve physical evidence of rape, can cost up to $800. Local prosecutors have the option of reimbursing the victim for the exam only if she agrees within 48 hours to prosecute.

The rules are legislative vestiges of a coarser time and only torment sexual assault victims when they are most traumatized, Mr. Kaine said.

“It’s this time collar of 48 hours, this [ultimatum of] ‘You’re going to have to take the polygraph or we’re not going to pursue the case,’ ” he said. “That is just not the best way to treat someone who’s the victim of a crime.

“We don’t do that with other crimes. Why would we do that routinely in a sexual assault?” he said.

In 2006, the state paid about $2 million medical exams on rape and sexual-assault victims, but the cost for full state reimbursement can’t be precisely calculated because there’s no way to know the number of victims, said Gordon Hickey, Mr. Kaine’s spokesman.

Mr. Kaine has fiscal incentives for changing the way that police and prosecutors deal with domestic violence and sex crimes. Without it, state agencies risk losing $4.5 million in federal money because existing laws violate the Violence Against Women Act, which Congress passed in 2005.

The changes are part of a legislative wish list that the Democratic governor will continue to make public heading into Wednesday’s start of the 2008 legislative session and battles that loom over a new budget and a $640 million projected shortfall.

Mr. Kaine proposed an additional $900,000 over the next two years for Virginia’s 37 sexual assault crisis centers — safe havens for victims. Funding for the centers, which treated 10,297 victims last year, has not increased in 10 years, he said.

He also proposed an additional $576,000 for a project to prevent domestic and sexual violence.

Perhaps the most anachronistic provision that Mr. Kaine would change is one that allows a man to shield himself from prosecution for sexually attacking a girl in her mid-teens through subsequently offering to marry her. That law predates the 1950s, Mr. Kaine’s office said.

Few girls marry so young in Virginia. There were 3,233 brides younger than 17 from 2001 to 2005, according to the Virginia Department of Health. Only 39 of those were 14 years old.

Mr. Kaine also will push for a bill that would compel courts to immediately add protective orders issued in civil cases for battered or abused spouses into the state police database. Now, it takes up to 3½ days to enter the information into the statewide network that allows officers to begin enforcing protective orders.

The initiatives are aimed largely at domestic abuse.

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