Legal Momentum News Brief—Week of July 9, 2018

Legal Momentum News Brief—Week of July 9, 2018

July 16, 2018 - 11:01 -- Jean Gazis
July 13, 2018

Legal Momentum Provides Testimony on D.C. Sextortion Bill 

As part of Legal Momentum’s ongoing campaign to improve the law’s response to online harassment and violence towards women and girls, on Wednesday, July 11, Legal Momentum Deputy Legal Director and Senior Attorney Jennifer Becker testified in front of the Council of the District of Columbia (the Washington, D.C. city council) in support of a bill that would expressly criminalize sextortion, the “Protection from Sexual Extortion Amendment Act of 2017.” The District doesn’t currently have such a law, according to D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine.“Sextortion is a terrible form of blackmail that gives sexual predators power over their victims—especially children,” Mr. Racine said. “This law will give us more tools to stop traffickers and other sexual predators from victimizing our kids.”

Legal Momentum and pro bono partner Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe worked directly with Attorney General Racine for more than a year on this bill, which was introduced to the council on October 5, 2017. Upon introducing the bill, Attorney General Racine expressed gratitude to the partners who helped craft the legislation. “My thanks to Legal Momentum, which has advocated on behalf of girls and women for [nearly] 50 years, for their assistance in creating this legislation along with attorneys at Orrick, Herrington, and Sutcliffe LLP,” he said.

Legal Momentum Presents New Webinar for Sexual Assault Victim Advocates 

On Monday, July 23, Legal Momentum will provide a webinar to recipients of grants from the Office on Violence against Women introducing a new online training course for non-lawyer victim advocates, Helping Sexual Assault Victims Navigate the Criminal Justice System, that Legal Momentum is launching. Legal Momentum’s comprehensive online training aims to help victim advocates understand the criminal justice system and where they fit into it in order to help sexual assault victims. The 90-minute webinar will provide an overview of the topics covered in the new online training and how victim advocates can access the training. The webinar will provide a brief overview of the criminal justice system and identify stages during which victim advocates can be particularly helpful in assisting a sexual assault victim navigating that system, including during medical forensic sexual assault examinations. It will also explain how other processes—such as civil cases and campus sexual assault proceedings—interact with the criminal justice process and how advocates can help sexual assault victims navigate concurrent processes. Development of the new web course was supported by a grant awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice.

Legal Momentum Helpline Serves More in Need 

Legal Momentum’s Helpline has seen a significant increase in both quality and volume of inquiries in the first half of 2018. This increase is the result of focusing our efforts in the last quarter of 2017 on 1) boosting our Helpline capacity and 2) developing partnerships with peer organizations to provide meaningful and substantive guidance to women in need in our practice areas.   Since January 1, 2018, Legal Momentum’s Helpline has handled more than 260 intakes, which is nearly two-thirds more than the Helpline handled in all of 2017. What’s more, the number is likely to triple by the end of the calendar year. Additionally, nearly 60 percent of all new Helpline requests in 2018 involved issues that fell within our three core practice areas: sex discrimination in education and employment, sextortion, and trafficking. Going forward, Legal Momentum will refine its focus areas to build upon the outreach strategy that was developed in 2017. Legal Momentum expects to expand the Helpline’s presence both locally in the New York metropolitan area and nationally. In 2018, we will continue to identify and engage peer organizations with similar missions to broadcast the Helpline’s availability and services. This will include increasing promotion of our Spanish-language referral Helpline for women seeking free legal information and resources. 

The Legal Momentum Helpline can be reached in English or Spanish by phone at 212-935-6635, ext. 650; by email at help@legalmomentum.org; and online at https://www.legalmomentum.org/get-help-form. The Helpline is funded in part by a generous grant from the Sy Syms Foundation.

Broadly Quotes Legal Momentum’s Deputy Legal Director 

When new charges were filed against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein in New York on July 9, Vice.com’s women’s news website Broadly reached out to Legal Momentum’s Deputy Legal Director and Senior Attorney, Jennifer Becker, for comment. Ms. Becker is a former New York City sex crimes prosecutor. Ms. Becker told Broadly reporter Kimberly Lawson that the new charges against Mr. Weinstein represent “definitely a big first step for the victims,” but cautioned that the road to justice could be long.

There are still a lot of procedures that have to be followed, as well as a potential trial. If the Weinstein case does go to trial, as is expected, it will be up to the judge and jury to find the facts that prove or disprove the criminal charges. “For many fact-finders, be it judges or juries, there are a lot of myths and misconceptions that are widely held in our society about sexual assault, how victims ‘should’ act, even though we know that everyone responds to that trauma differently.” Ms. Becker pointed out. She noted that “It’ll be interesting to see how the #MeToo movement will educate fact-finders to the realities of sexual assault and whether that’ll have an impact on the type of accountability that we see perpetrators face.”

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