Sen. Holly Thompson Rehder’s Legislative Column for July 7, 2022

Protecting Survivors

Seeing a bill signed by the governor and become a law is a rewarding and satisfying experience for any legislator. It’s incredibly difficult to move a legislative proposal all the way through the process and onto the governor’s desk. It was especially rewarding to see Senate Bill 775 signed into law on June 30. The path this bill took to final approval began in 2021, with the formation of the Missouri Rights of Victims of Sexual Assault Task Force.

I was one of 13 members of this group who spent nearly a year studying challenges and obstacles faced by survivors of sexual assault. We talked to members of law enforcement, prosecutors, health care professionals and victims’ advocates. With their recommendations, we put together a bill and worked during the 2022 legislative session to pass it. The centerpiece of SB 775 is an updated Sexual Assault Survivors Bill of Rights, a clear enumeration of the services and accommodations a victim can rightly expect when they report a crime, seek care and participate in the investigation and prosecution of the offense.

Some of the rights listed in SB 775 reflect common decency and consideration for the dignity of the survivor: the right to a shower and a change of clothing, the right to be interviewed by a law enforcement officer of the gender the victim is most comfortable speaking to, the right to have an appropriate language interpreter to aid communication, if necessary. Other provisions of the Sexual Assault Survivor’s Bill of Rights are intended to ensure justice is done. Survivors should expect to receive an appropriate forensic examination, and to be kept informed of the status of the evidence collected as the case proceeds. Survivors should expect to be free from intimidation, harassment or abuse, and to receive reasonable protection from the offender. The Sexual Assault Survivors Bill of Rights will not wipe away physical pain and emotional distress from a sexual assault but, hopefully, this legislation will ease some of the hurdles and reduce the trauma as survivors seek justice and attempt to get perpetrators off the street.

The final version of SB 775 includes much more than the Survivors Bill of Rights. It provides privacy protections for both witnesses and victims and updates Missouri’s “Rape Shield” law, ensuring survivors will not have their past sexual history brought up in court in an effort to blame the victim. There are also provisions relating to child trafficking, orders of protection and other matters relating to sexual offenses. Senate Bill 775 is the product of a lot of hard work, by a lot of people. I cannot take credit alone for its passage. All the members of the task force were instrumental in developing the ideas contained in the law, and I leaned heavily on Senate colleagues, on both sides of the political aisle, to get the bill passed.

I know sexual assaults will continue to impact the lives of far too many Missourians (not just women), but I believe the provisions contained in this law will lessen the trauma and indignity that so often follows the actual attack. The process of seeking justice should not feel like another assault. It’s my hope that SB 775 will bring just a bit more humanity and decency to that process and increase the likelihood that perpetrators are brought to justice. There’s definitely more work that needs to be done to support survivors, but passage of this law is a great start. It was incredibly rewarding to have a role.

Contact Me

I always appreciate hearing your comments, opinions and concerns. Please feel free to contact me in Jefferson City at (573) 751-2459. You may write me at Holly Thompson Rehder, Missouri Senate, State Capitol, Rm 433, Jefferson City, MO 65101, send an email to or visit