State lawmakers highlighted a series of measures aimed at preventing sexual assault and protecting survivors Wednesday.

"This is not an issue to be joked about," said Sen. Kate Bolz of Lincoln, flanked by nine fellow members of the Legislature. 

The news conference came a week after millions of people took part in Women's March protests around the world and a Nebraska state senator shared a joke on Twitter apparently making light of sexual assault.

Anyone can fall victim to sexual assault, regardless of gender, age or appearance, Bolz said.

Nationwide, an estimated 1 in 6 women do — along with 1 in 33 men.

"There is no one answer," Bolz said.

Five bills addressing a spectrum of issues related to sexual assault and domestic violence were featured during the news conference.

LB187, sponsored by Bolz, would allow victims of sexual assault to obtain protection orders similar to those available to victims of harassment or domestic abuse.

LB107, sponsored by Sen. Sue Crawford of Bellevue, would prohibit adults in positions of trust — such as doctors and school employees — from engaging in sex acts with teenagers between ages 16 to 18, even if the adult is under 25.

LB188, sponsored by Sen. Sara Howard of Omaha, would prevent people convicted of sexual assault that results in the birth of a child from having parental rights for that child.

LB191, sponsored by Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks of Lincoln, would allow victims of domestic abuse to seek renewal of a protection order before it expires to prevent a "gap" in coverage.

LB289, also sponsored by Pansing Brooks, would significantly increase the state's penalties for human trafficking.

Sens. Adam Morfeld, Lynne Walz, Tony Vargas, Matt Hansen, Carol Blood and Mike McDonnell also appeared at the news conference.

Bolz said she was encouraged to see fellow senators speak out against state Sen. Bill Kintner's offensive retweet during floor debate Tuesday. Kintner resigned from office Wednesday morning.

However, Bolz said, "the amount of times that our colleague's inappropriate retweet was again retweeted gives me pause."

Among others, awareness and sensitivity toward sexual assault appears to be gaining momentum.

"Certainly we saw it in a very public way through the Women's March last weekend," Bolz said.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7234 or zpluhacek@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @zachami.


Assistant city editor

Zach Pluhacek is an assistant city editor.

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