Scope and Contents
This collection contains the papers of COSAR (Committee on Sexual Assault Reform), a coalition of women's activist organizations instrumental in pressing for reform of Viginia's sexual assault legislation. COSAR met throughout 1976 and 1977, drafting a propsed bill which eventually became the basis for Virginia's 1981 sexual assault law. This record contains minutes of COSAR meetings, drafts of COSAR's proposed bill, mass mailing materials, and clippings relating to the activities of the organization.
For more documentation of COSAR's work as well as the later work of some of its members, see: The Papers of H. Lane Kneedler: Legislative History of Virginia's Criminal Assault Law, 1977 - 1981 [COSAR], MSS 81-1 and The Joseph V. Gartlan, Jr. Files Concerning Criminal Sexual Assault Legislation, MSS 81-3.
Biographical / Historical
In 1976 the General Assembly appointed the State Crime Commission, which in turn established the Advisory Task Force to Study Criminal Sexual Assault. The Task Force met for the first time 18 October 1976, and five committees were charged with studying the crime, its impact, prevention, and punishment. Lane Kneedler was appointed to the Court Process Committee which later merged with the Legislation Committee as the drafting of the bill began; the other committees were Treatment, Rehabilitation and Punishment; Law Enforcement; and Public Education. All the committees carried out research and held public hearings before making recommendations.
The Virginia Committee on Sexual Assault Reform (COSAR), a citizens' interest group, had formed at approximately the same time the Crime Commission was getting started, and its leaders were appointed to most of these committees. In May 1977, COSAR presented a proposed criminal sexual assault reform bill to the Legislation Committee. By late fall of that year, Kneedler and his research assistants made recommendations to the merged committees on the proposed bill, which in January 1978 became S. B. 291. Introduced by Senator Stanley Walker, it passed the Senate by a vote of 32-6. S. B. 291 then went before the House Courts of Justice Committee, where it was amended; in the 1979 session the bill passed the House by a vote of 77-21, but the Senate rejected a conference committee report on it. Consequently, S. B. 291, sponsored in 1979 by Senator Joseph Gartlan, died with the close of the session
Task Force members and additional legislators revised the bill in the summer and fall of 1979. The resulting S. B. 258, sponsored by Senator Frederick Boucher, was diligently studied by the Senate Courts of Justice Committee in early 1980. On 18 February, the bill carried the committee, 11-4, and passed the Senate the same day by a 31-9 vote. The House Courts of Justice Committee, however, voted to carry the bill over to the 1981 session.
A special committee to study S. B. 258 was appointed in June of 1980, but this committee did not work on the bill. Task Force members and representatives of the Virginia Association of Commonwealth's Attorneys (VACA), the principal opponents of the bill, constructed a compromise version of it. The Task Force members were Senators Boucher and Gartlan, Ann Warshauer of COSAR, and Lane Kneedler; VACA was represented by William Person and Daniel Chichester, President and Past-President, respectively, and by Robert Horan, Chairman of the Legislation Committee
The compromise version of S. B. 258 passed the House Courts of Justice Committee with an amendment to the evidence section by Delegate Robrecht. Before the House that amendment was defeated and replaced by a more specific one sponsored by Delegate Theodore Morrison; the deletion of the section on spousal rape was the only other change to the compromise bill. S. B. 258 passed the House by a vote of 98-1 on 28 January. At this point VACA withdrew its support of the bill because of the Morrison amendment, but the group did not fight its passage in the Senate. S. B. 258 was signed into law by Governor John Dalton in March 1981, and went into effect on the first of July.