A proponent for victims of sexual and domestic violence says a bill signed by the Governor could put Missouri ahead of other states in how it deals with such crimes.

Colleen Coble is the CEO of the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic & Sexual Violence. She says House Bill 215 makes significant changes to all of Missouri’s laws regarding sex crimes.

“I think in many regards we could see that this puts Missouri in a very prominent position for really changing the nature of our laws on rape, and making a leadership place for our state in the way our laws can address rape and sexual assault.”

The bill will change the definition of rape to include instances when a victim does not give consent, rather than solely on an offender’s use of force of violence. Coble says the importance of that change can’t be overstated.

“Before this bill was signed into law by the Governor, if you were incapacitated, you were medically sedated, you didn’t have the mental capacity to consent to any sexual activity, the law didn’t call that a crime if someone forced you and raped you. That is changed with this law.”

The change comes too late for many victims who had to endure being told that Missouri law didn’t call what had happened to them a crime. Coble says even for those individuals, however, some healing could come out of this law being passed.

“I think it absolutely will and that has been shown by the courage of those who came forward during the legislative process to tell their stories and to tell how they were failed by our laws not reflecting the reality of rape in our state, and its effect on individuals who then aren’t able to proceed through the prosecution and court system.”

Those changes in  law take effect August 28.