Bill inspired by Chesterfield County sexual assault survivor signed into law

Bill inspired by Chesterfield County sexual assault survivor signed into law

CHESTERFIELD, S.C. (WBTV) - Governor Henry McMaster signed a bill into law that was partially inspired by a Chesterfield County teen who survived a sexual assault.

Janessa Bowles-Morton, 15, spoke with WBTV in November about how she survived a sexual assault when she was 5-years-old. She ran into the man who was convicted of assaulting her working with children at a local horse farm.

She and her mother took their concerns to local law enforcement and learned it was not against the law for a registered sex offender to work with children if they served their time and were no longer on probation or parole.

The Mortons then went to Representative Richie Yow, R-District 53. He introduced a bill in December that would change the current law, preventing registered sex offenders from working or volunteering with kids.

In May, a similar bill already passed through the Senate. With help from other lawmakers, Yow made an amendment to Senate Bill 0595, adding his changes that were inspired by Janessa.

The bill was approved by the House and Governor Henry McMaster signed it Thursday night.

“I was just tickled, this bill started right here in Chesterfield County,” Yow said.

Strengthening laws regarding registered sex offender employment was Janessa’s goal, but her mother Stephanie says Janessa achieved so much more.

“The hardest part of all of this, was her being able to publicly talk about this,” Morton said. “But in essence, it has made her so much stronger.”

Since speaking to WBTV about her story, Janessa has mentored other children who have survived sexual assaults. Morton says they reached out to Janessa after hearing her story.

Janessa has also worked with the local Pee-Dee Coalition which helps survivors of sexual assault. Not only has it helped other children, Morton says it’s helped heal Janessa too.

“I’m just glad that she could help other kids. That kids in South Carolina are going to be safer,” Morton said.

Senate Bill 0595 provides and exemption for registered sex offenders, but it must be approved by a circuit court judge.

To read more about the bill click here.

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