Iowa bills protect abuse victims

DES MOINES, IA – Iowa lawmakers are busy on the hill this week. Both the House and the Senate passed their own versions of several bills related to kidnapping and sex trafficking in the state.

It’s an important issue for most Iowa families after the kidnapping and murder of Kathlynn Shepard, but something positive has come out of the tragedy.

Her death has inspired legislation requiring harsher sentences for kidnappers in the state. Under the plans in the House and Senate, what used to be a “class C” felony would now be a “class B” felony.

Where the two versions vary is on what’s known as “good time” or “earned” time. The House would not allow it, however, the Senate is slightly more lenient saying those convicted would have to serve a minimum of 70 percent of their sentence.

State Sen. Amanda Ragan told us why this piece of legislation is important, “That’s really important when you’re moving legislation. To have, you know, people working to get together for the good of Iowans and that’s really what it is and especially for children and making sure that our children are safe.”

The legislature not only wants harsher penalties for kidnappers, but also for those who make money off sex trafficking. Along with the increased penalties, Rep. House Leader, Linda Upmeyer tells us this bill also addresses the victims of this crime, “Sometimes these girls are really caught up in a cycle that is hard to break out of and they don’t have much support and so this is very important to getting them the services they need.”

She believes this legislation would strengthen the current, outdated Iowa law which does not provide helpful avenues for victims.

The executive director at crisis intervention services in mason city supports the goal for this legislation, “Rather than charging victims with a crime, to bring in a team of people that could help, I mean, just a wide range of people from advocates to medical help to whatever it is that people need to escape that life and start the journey down the road to healing and feeling safe.”

The house unanimously passed this bill and it will now move on for the Senate’s approval.

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