Ohio lawmaker pushes to add more protections for sex assault survivors in court

Lawmaker pushes to add more protection for sex assault survivors in court

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - There's a push to add another layer of protection for sex assault survivors in the courtroom.

A state lawmaker wants to shield the advocates they talk to in confidence after an assault from testifying.

In Ohio, testimonial privilege means doctors and lawyers don't have to testify about conversations with their patients or clients in court.

State Representative Tavia Galonski (D- Akron) wants crisis counselors who work with sex assault survivors to receive the same privilege.

Galonski previously served as a magistrate in Summit County.

19 News spoke to her over the phone about her bill.

“Survivors come to people to receive a listening ear really from the advocate. And so neither the advocate nor the survivor should be in fear of any of that information being reported out,” Galonski said.

The “Advocate Privilege Bill” was filed this Monday. Galonski said it gives sex assault survivors more privacy.

“A person might be ready to talk about their story, to talk about the tragedy that happened to them. But that does not mean that they're necessarily ready to go to court and it certainly doesn't mean that the prosecutor has the right kind of evidence that would be used in court,” Galonski said.

Galonski said sex assault survivors sometimes fear retaliation with sensitive information being shared in court.

19 News reached out to the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association.

Executive Director Louis Tobin said they do not have a position on the bill yet.

“I will tell you that prosecutors generally disfavor testimonial privileges because they hamper one of the primary functions of our courts – to ascertain the truth. The cost of placing limits on that truth seeking function is occasional injustice and occasional injustice decreases the public’s faith in our justice system as a whole,” he said in an email.

Galonski says no one would block prosecutors from getting evidence.

“I am very concerned that if we don't pass bills quickly like this, then its rape culture and the perpetrators that will win over our survivors and I know no one wants that for Ohio,” she said.

The bill has bipartisan support.

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