Today, June 1, 2017, the Oregon House of Representatives voted unanimously to pass Senate Bill 261, which creates a civil rape shield law in Oregon! The bill previously passed unanimously through the Senate on April 27, 2017. Next, it goes to Governor’s office to be signed into law.
We previously blogged about this bill, as Graves & Swanson LLC attorney Jackie Swanson and public rape survivor Brenda Tracy advocated for its adoption.
Rape shield laws were designed to encourage reporting by preventing embarrassment and mitigating the reliance on misconceived notions about sexual misconduct and victim behavior. In furtherance of this goal, in 1981 our state adopted Oregon Evidence Code 412 (ORS § 40.210), which makes certain evidence relating to a victim’s sexual predisposition in a criminal case inadmissible. However, unlike Federal Rule of Evidence 412, our rape shield law did not apply to civil proceedings – until now.
The chief sponsor of SB 261 was Senator Sara Gelser (D-Corvallis). The Bill’s regular Senate sponsors were Senators Michael Dembrow (D-Portland), Tim Knopp (R-Bend), James Manning Jr. (D-Eugene), and Laurie Monnes Anderson (D-Gresham); the bill’s regular House sponsors were Representative Ann Lininger (D-Lake Oswego) and House Majority Leader Jennifer Williamson (D-Portland), who carried the bill at today’s House floor vote.
We at Graves & Swanson LLC are pleased that our state legislature has spoken on this important issue, in furtherance of the goals of holding offenders and institutions responsible for sexual misconduct by encouraging reporting and preventing a defendant's reliance on stereotypes and myths to escape accountability.