Changes sought in crime victim law
April 30, 2009
CARSON CITY ” Lawmakers were urged Thursday to revise a law requiring consideration of any “contributory conduct” by domestic violence or rape victims in determining whether they get benefits under Nevada’s Victims of Crime Program.
The program provides up to $35,000 for medical and other costs to a victim of violent crime. But Senate Judiciary Committee members were told a hearing officer is supposed to consider any “contributory conduct” by a victim before deciding on the benefits.
The wording, designed to block those mutually to blame for a fight or other violence from getting funding, shouldn’t apply to victims of domestic violence or sexual assault, Nancy Hart of the Nevada Network Against Domestic Violence said.
AB116, an Assembly-approved measure being reviewed by the Senate panel, would change the requirement for considering “contributory conduct” and end a system that “unfairly blames the victims for the violence perpetrated against them,” Hart added.
Lori Fralick, victims services officer for the Reno Police Department, cited the case of a 13-year-old girl who passed out after drinking alcohol and was then repeatedly raped. Fralick said the victim was at first denied benefits under the state program, although the ruling was reversed after she protested.
Bryan Nix, who runs the state crime victims program, told lawmakers that some proponents of AB116 had “misrepresented” the program and had dug up old cases that wouldn’t be denied under current policies. He added it’s unfair to portray the program as “the enemy of victims.”
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The Victims of Crime Program needs some discretion because in domestic violence cases usually “it’s not clear at all who did what exactly,” Nix said. But he agreed the “contributory conduct” analysis should never be applied in a case involving sexual assault.
Judiciary members took no immediate action on AB116, sponsored by Assemblyman John Carpenter, R-Elko.