Highlight the Right: Safety

The right to be free from intimidation, harassment and abuse

The right to reasonable protection from the accused or convicted

The right to have the safety of the victim and the victim’s family considered in setting conditions of release or transfer


Protecting ourselves and our family after a violent and traumatizing experience is at the core of our humanity. But when victims of crime are thrust into a confusing, sometimes threatening and arduous criminal justice system, the ability to secure meaningful protection for themselves and their families is lacking in our Iowa laws. Iowa currently has no constitutional rights for victims of crime and the statutory rights that do exist[i] to protect a victim against further harm lack any true mechanism for enforcement. These inadequate protections act as false hope for victims turning to the government for support and protection as they seek justice for their trauma.



Including legitimate protections for victims of crime in state constitutions is common sense. In the past thirty years, 35 other states have successfully amended their state constitutions[ii] to provide victims some form of constitutional protections, and 21 of those states recognize that ensuring the safety of a crime victim following a report of violence is of the utmost importance.[iii] Iowa is not one of those states. If a victim cannot depend on the system to consider their safety during the prosecution of the person who committed violence against them, what trust can the victim put in the system? Lack of trust in the system can lead to a lack of reporting of crime[iv] and in turn, a less safe society.

As the laws stand in Iowa, the only true control a victim has over their participation in the criminal justice system is in reporting a crime. If a victim doesn’t report a crime, they don’t risk being retraumatized by a system that all too often ignores their concerns throughout the criminal justice process. And when a system offers no legitimate protection for the victims’ safety, what motivation do they have to report a violent offense? In fact, RAINN estimates, based on data from the US Department of Justice and the FBI, that only about 62% of assault and battery crimes are reported to law enforcement and that number drops to 23% when the assault is of a sexual nature.[v] Victims should not have to choose between the re-traumatization of going through a criminal justice system which fails to protect them but may hold their perpetrator accountable and the physical and emotional safety that seems more certain when they choose not to report a crime. The system should provide safeguards to protect the victim of crime after they report the abuse or violence that has been perpetrated against them.



Marsy’s Law for Iowa will afford victims of crime the right to be free from intimidation, harassment and abuse, the right to reasonable protection from the accused or convicted and the right to have the safety of the victim and the victim’s family considered in setting conditions of release or transfer of the offender. These rights will help to solidify a victims’ right to safety under the law while establishing meaningful, long-lasting and enforceable protections that victims of crime can access while attempting to navigate a confusing government system. None of these safety rights allow a victim absolute discretion in deciding the conditions of release, nor do they afford the victim unlimited protection at the government’s expense. Rather, they guarantee that all the entities that are part of the criminal justice system place victim safety at the forefront when making decisions about the case. A victim of crime must be able to rely on a government which provides tools to protect them and their families when they report their story.

Victims should not have to decide between reporting a crime and their own safety. But, without meaningful constitutional rights to protect them and their families from possible retaliatory violence, a victim in Iowa currently has to make that choice.


[i] Iowa Code § 915.22 (civil injunction to restrain harassment or intimidation of victims or witnesses); Iowa Code § 915.38 (Televised, videotaped, and recorded evidence – limited court testimony – minors and others); Iowa Code § 915.52 (Protective order victim notification system).

[ii] Al. Const. art. 1, § 6.01; Ak. Const. art. I, § 24; Ariz. Const. art. 2, § 2.1; Cal. Const. art. 1, § 28; Colo. Const. art. II, § 16a; Conn. Const. art. 1, § 8(b); Fl. Const. art. I, § 16; G.A. Const. art I, § 1, ¶XXX; Idaho Const. art. 1, § 22; Ill. Const, art. 1,  § 8.1; Ind. Const. art. 1, § 13(b); Kan. Const. art. 15, § 15; La. Const. art. I, § 25; Md. Const. Decl. of Rights art. 47; Mich. Const. art. I, § 24; Miss. Const. art. 3, § 26A; Mo. Const. art. I, § 32; Mont. Const. art. II, § 28; Neb. Const. art. I, § 28; Nev. Const. art. I, § 23; N.J. Const. art. I, § 22; N.M. Const. art., II, § 24; N.C. Const. art. I, § 37; N.D. Const. art. I, § 25; Ohio Const. art. I, § 10a; Okla. Const. art. II, § 34; Or. Const. art. I, § 42; R.I. Const. art. 1, § 23; S.C. Const. art. I, § 24; S.D. Const. art. 6, § 29; Tenn. Const. art. I, § 35; Tex. Const. art. I, § 30; Utah Const. art. I, § 28; Va. Const. art. I, § 8-A; Wash. Const. art. 1, § 35; Wis. Const. art. I, § 9m(2).

[iii] Alaska Const. art. I, § 24 (be reasonably protected from the accused); Ariz. Const. art. 2, § 2.1(A)(1) (free from intimidation harassment, or abuse); Cal. Const. art. 1, § 28(b)(1) (free from intimidation harassment, or abuse); Conn. Const. art. I, § 8b(3) (be reasonably protected from the accused); Fla. Const. art. I, § 16(b)(2) (free from intimidation, harassment, and abuse); Ill. Const. art. I, § 8.1(a)(1) (free from harassment, intimidation, and abuse); Mich. Const. art. I, § 24(1) (reasonably protected from the accused); Mo. Const. art. I, § 32(1)(reasonable protection from the defendant or any person acting on behalf of the defendant); Nev. Const. art. 1, § 23(1)(a) (be free from intimidation, harassment and abuse); N.M. Const. art. II, § 24(A)(3) (reasonably protected from the accused); N.D. Const. art. 1, § 25(1)(b) (be free from intimidation harassment, abuse); Ohio Const. art. I, §10a(A)(4) (reasonable protection from the accused or any person acting on behalf of the accused); Okla. Const. art II, § 34(A) (respect for the victim’s safety) (reasonable protection); Or. Const. art. I, § 43(a and b); S.C. Const. art. I, § 24(A)(1) (be free from intimidation, harassment or abuse); S.D. Const. art 6, § 29(2) (be free from intimidation, harassment and abuse); Tenn. Const. art I, § 35(2) (be free from intimidation, harassment and abuse); Tex. Const. art. I, § 30(a)(2) (reasonably protected from the accused); Utah Const. art. I, § 28(1)(a) (free from harassment and abuse); Va. Const. art. I, § 8-A(1) (protection from further harm or reprisal through the imposition of appropriate bail and conditions of release); Wis. Const. art. I, § 9m(2)(f) (reasonable protection from the accused).

[iv] See The Criminal Justice System: Statistics, RAINN (2017), https://www.rainn.org/statistics/criminal-justice-system.

[v] I.d.