HARTFORD, CT — The Senate Democratic caucus is picking up where it left off last year with a bill that would strengthen Connecticut’s sexual assault and harassment laws.
A bill that would eliminate the statute of limitations for forced rape or rape by drugs passed the state Senate last year with bipartisan support, but never got called in the House.
“I think part of the obstacle last year was time and it not being prioritized by people who make decisions in another chamber,” Sen. Mae Flexer, D-Killingly, said.
The elimination of the statute of limitations was the sticking point for lawmakers in the House. The Office of the Public Defender complained it would increase their workload, but Flexer and proponents of the bill care less about their workload and more about the fact that criminal rapists are getting away with it if a victim does not bring their case within five years of the assault.
Compared with other states and the District of Columbia, Connecticut’s statute of limitations for rape is one of the five shortest in the country. Twenty-five states have no statute of limitations and 20 states have limits that exceed Connecticut’s five-year standard.
Flexer said there are new people this year in the legislature and she’s hopeful the bill will pass.
She said victims report sexual assault crimes less than other crimes because they are fearful of retaliation and do not think the police will believe them. She said that’s why Connecticut needs this legislation.
She said in the year that’s past they’ve seen more victims in other parts of the country come forward to tell their story “who wouldn’t be able to get justice because of our antiquated statutes here in the state of Connecticut.”
She said she thinks there’s a better understanding this year of why this law needs to be changed.
The bill also includes a provision that would require every employer with three or more employees to give them all sexual harassment training. Currently employers with 50 or more employees are required to provide at least two hours of training to supervisory employees within six months of their employment.
It also extends the deadline for workplace complaints to be filed with the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities from 180 days to 300 days.
Another bill the Senate Democratic caucus is supporting is one that would require diaper changing tables to be installed in any newly constructed restrooms that are accessible to the public.
A federal law passed in 2016 requires diaper-changing tables in all restrooms in federal buildings, such as courthouses and post offices.
There are no diaper changing tables in the men’s restrooms at the Connecticut Legislative Office Building or state Capitol.
“All we have to do is get agreement to spend the money,” Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said.
There are no plans to add changing tables to the public restrooms in the Legislative Office Building or state Capitol, which are managed by the General Assembly.
Sen. Will Haskell, D-Wilton, said they are seeing a move toward more equitable access to diaper changing tables in new construction.
“This isn’t hugely burdensome,” Haskell said.
He said research shows men are taking on a larger role in parenting and they need access to changing tables, too. Without access to a changing table these men are forced to change their child on unsanitary restroom floors or counters and even delay changing a diaper which can lead to rashes and infections for the child.
Sen. Heather Somers, R-Groton, said she’s not a big fan of mandates.
“I think it’s a nice thought,” Somers said. “If you’re building a new restroom and you want to put in a changing table for a child, I think you should go ahead and do that.”
She said the bill is not a priority for her.
Other bills the Senate Democratic caucus is supporting include a bill concerning discrimination against LGBTQ community, another regarding the advertising of pregnancy services, and an act concerning non-disclosure agreements in the workplace.