BOSTON – Senator Michael O. Moore (D-Millbury) announced that the Massachusetts Senate unanimously passed S.2567, a Resolve relative to sexual assault counselor task force. This legislation creates a task force to establish statewide standards for the training and certification of sexual assault counselors.

The Commonwealth currently contracts with 17 providers across the state to deliver services through regional rape crisis centers. While standards can be enforced through contractual requirements, there is nothing to prevent other individuals or organizations from asserting themselves as qualified counselors or service providers.

“After participating in the rape crisis volunteer training at Pathways for Change, Inc. in Worcester, I was deeply impressed by the knowledge of their instructors and the effectiveness of the program” said Senator Michael O. Moore.  “However, I was concerned to learn there was no statewide standard for training individuals or certifying organizations across Massachusetts. The task force established by this legislation will ensure that any resident of the Commonwealth seeking assistance after a sexual assault will be presented with the best possible options for services.”

The task force will be chaired by the Commissioner of the Department of Public Health, and will include one member designated by the Governor’s Council, a representative from the Victim Rights Law Center; Jane Doe, Inc; the Massachusetts Office of Victim Assistance, a sexual assault survivor, and one member from each of the Commonwealth’s three independent rape crisis centers, including Pathways for Change, Inc.

“On behalf of Pathways for Change, Inc. and the Survivors of sexual violence that we serve I would like to thank Senator Moore for his leadership in facilitating passage of S.2567 through the Senate” said Kim Dawkins, Executive Director for Pathways for Change, Inc. “While rape crisis centers and rape crisis programs contracted with the Commonwealth are carefully regulated to insure that Survivors receive the highest quality of care possible, current law allows almost anyone to “hang out a shingle” and say they are a sexual assault counselor. In fact, we are aware of more than one allegation of an institution that claims to be operating a rape crisis program for the unspoken purpose of keeping “incidents” in-house where pressure can be applied to Survivors to recant. Passage of this bill is the first step in preventing this from happening in the future. Survivors of sexual violence are among the most vulnerable citizens of the Commonwealth and deserve our protection. I strongly urge the House to follow the Senate’s lead and pass its companion bill, H.2462”

The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.