Dan and Gil Harrington, the driving forces behind Help Save The Next Girl, both support legislation and social change to make the legal system easier to navigate for victims and their families. The Harrington family has focused the majority of their lobbying efforts on supporting the following pieces of legislation:
Kristen's Law 2009
Familial DNA Testing 2011
Katherine’s Law introduced 2011
VA HB 965 - funding bill for "Protect" passed 1/2014
VA HB 965 - Governor's Child Safety Test
VA HB 1617 - DNA Data Bank Expansion #1 passed 1/2015
VA SB 1193 - Safe Transfer - Schools must identify sexual assaults on transfer transcripts - passed 3/2015
VA HB 1785, HB 1930, SB 712 - External reporting of sexual assault on campus - passed 5/2015
VA Crime Commission Study by Department of Criminal Justice to produce Virginia Missing Person's Family Resource Guide - 5/2015
Every Child Achieves Act - 2015
VA HB 659 - 2/2016
VA HB 655 (HB 1160) - 3/2016
VA HB 1102 - 3/2016
HJ 612 - VA Missing Person's Day established 1/2017
VA HB 2257 - Education Consent Bill - 2/2017
VA HB 1249 - DNA Databank Expansion #2 6/2018
This bill requires high school family life education curriculum offered by a local school division to incorporate age-appropriate elements of effective and evidence-based programs on the prevention of dating violence, domestic abuse, sexual harassment, and sexual violence.
Passed the House on February 15, 2016
Passed the Senate on February 29, 2016
HB1102 requires the Department of Criminal Justice Services, in consultation with the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia and the Virginia Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators, to develop multidisciplinary curricula on trauma-informed sexual assault investigation.
Passed the House on February 16, 2016
Passed the Senate, amended on March 3, 2016
Passed the House as amended on March 7, 2016
HB 655 requires the Department of State Police, local law-enforcement agencies, and campus police departments to collect evidence obtained in sexual assault investigations, including physical evidence recovery kits from sexual assault investigations where the victim elects at the time of examination not to report the assault to law enforcement. The bill provides that if the victim elects at the time of examination not to report the assault to law enforcement, the law-enforcement agency shall send the kit to the Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services of the Department of General Services, which shall retain the kit for a minimum of five years from the date of receipt or a minimum of five years after the victim reaches the age of majority, whichever is longer. If the victim elects at the time of examination to report the sexual assault to law enforcement, the kit shall be submitted by the law-enforcement agency to the Department of Forensic Science for analysis, then returned to the submitting law-enforcement agency for storage for the same time frame.
HB 655 was incorporated into HB1160 (Bell, Patron; Filler-Corn, Co-Patron), which passed the house on February 16, 2016. The bill passed the Senate with an amendment on March 2, 2016 and passed the house as amended on March 4, 2016.
Dan and Gil Harrington support this bill designed to help prevent sexual assault by educating students on safe relationships and sexual violence. This bill, passed in the summer of 2015, will require all schools applying for Title IV funding to report how they educate students on safe relationship behaviors.
VA Crime Commission Study
Dan and Gil Harrington are participating in the ongoing Virginia Crime Commission study to upgrade and standardize statewide response to missing persons cases in the Commonwealth. The study is intended to make Virginia’s response to missing persons cases more effective and utilize resources more efficiently. The study is an impressive and comprehensive attempt to improve service to victims and their families.
HB 1930, SB 712, VA HB 1785
The Virginia House of Delegates and Senate passed multiple bills in March 2015, including HB 1930 and SB 712. These bills require institutions of higher education to report cases involving a felony sexual assault to the local attorney for the Commonwealth.
The bills also require every employee to report acts of sexual violence to the campus Title IX coordinator, who will report to a committee comprised of the Title IX coordinator, a student affairs representative, and a law enforcement representative. The committee will meet within 72 hours of receiving information of sexual violence to determine if immediate disclosure to law enforcement is necessary to protect the survivor and the public.
Dan and Gill Harrington both endorsed, and lobbied for these bills to pass, and have been asked to attend the signing ceremony in April 2015.
UPDATE May 28, 2015
Today, HB 1785 was signed by Governor McAuliffe. Gil and Dan Harrington and Trina Murphy were at the ceremony to sign the bill into law.This bill requires a campus police force to have a mutual agreement with local law enforcement and to report to the Commonwealth attorney within 48 hours of any investigation of a felony crime of sexual assualt that occured on campus property or any property relating the to higher education institution. This bill also requires campuses with only a campus security force and not a campus police force to enter into a memorandum of understanding to report to the general attorney.
HB1617 requires that every person convicted of a class 1 misdemeanor under Title 18.2 to have a DNA sample taken. Juveniles convicted of or adjudicated delinquent of any three misdemeanor sex offenses will also be required to provide a DNA sample.
This bill, introduced by Delegate David J. Toscano, garnered support after the murder of Hannah Graham.
Jesse Matthew, forensically linked to both Hannah Graham and Morgan Harrington, could have possibly been apprehended sooner if his DNA had been on file as he was convicted of a misdemeanor (trespassing) in 2010.
The Governor's Child Safety Test
VA HB 965, The Governor’s Child Safety Test, would permit each local school board to include the Governor’s Child Safety Test as a part of the physical education program. The safety test would consist of eight yearly hours on how to recognize, avoid, resist, and escape physical, sexual, and online threats. Upon successful completion of the program, the student would receive a certificate signed by the Governor.
“Four years out, it still hurts,” said Gil Harrington. “We have times that we fall into the vortex of tears. There is no anguish comparable to having your child murdered and abducted.”
In January 2014, Gil and Dan Harrington went to the State Capitol to urge lawmakers to consider adding the Governor’s Child Safety Test to Virginia’s physical education program. The Harringtons know firsthand the devastation of having a child stolen from a family, and they hope this program might reduce the risk of future abductions and murders.
Katherine’s Law, VA Bill HB2490, was introduced in 2011. The bill would require campus police to report the death or alleged rape of any person on campus property to the local or state law enforcement agency in which the institution is located. Local or state law enforcement would then collaborate with campus police in felony investigations.
Familial DNA Testing
Familial DNA Testing, or Familial Searching, is the deliberate search of a DNA database for matches that are not exact, but close enough to constitute a familial relation (sibling, parent, etc.). This process has been used in the UK for a few years, but is available only in Colorado, California, Texas, and now Virginia due to the Harringtons lobbying efforts.
The Harrington family believes that this forensic test should be available nation-wide as a tool for law enforcement.
For more information, check out the FBI’s web article on Familial Searching.
More on Familial DNA Testing in Virginia:
If a missing person is over 18 years of age, the support network collapses. It is not a crime for an adult to be missing, and there is no funding to support families to instigate searches or to access media in hopes of recovering a missing loved one.
The Harrington family lobbied in Congress in 2009, following Morgan's abduction, to seek funds for missing adults. However, that fiscal support remains limited due to sequestration and perhaps inattention.
Named after Kristen Modafferi, an 18-year-old from Charlotte, North Carolina, who went missing in June of 1997, this bill was started to help create and fund a National Center for Missing Adults (NCMA.) Before the creation of NCMA, there was a lack of a centralized organization to aid in cases involving missing persons over the age of 18. In 2009, the NCMA was absorbed by Let’s Bring Them Home (LBTH), an Arkansas non-profit offering education and resources.