116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Sometimes it takes someone most familiar with a law to catch that small loophole, not easily detected from the outside but big enough to lead to trauma for a victim of crime.
In this instance, that someone is Anastasia Basquin, the chief victim liaison and community outreach specialist with the Linn County Attorney’s Office.
Basquin said she’s worked on many cases over the years where a defendant charged with sexual assault would made bail and get out of jail before a no-contact order could be issued to protect the victim.
When defendants contact their victims, it “causes such fear and trauma for the victims,” Basquin said this week.
She told her boss about the loophole.
The idea moved on to the Iowa Legislature, which crafted a bill that now requires anyone accused of first-, second- or third-degree sexual abuse to appear in front of a magistrate before posting bail.
A no-contact order is issued at the same time, prohibiting the defendant from having any contact — in person, by text, phone or email — with the victim. If a defendant violates the order, he or she will be arrested and returned to jail.
The bill, HF2079, passed both houses of the Legislature unanimously and was signed into law in May by Gov. Kim Reynolds. It went into effect July 1.
“Before this change in the law took place, we had one (case) that was tremendously difficult,” Basquin said. “It involved a minor victim, and the entire family had to move in order to avoid being contacted by this person accused of sexual abuse.”
For her work on the issue, Basquin received the Exemplary Service — Innovation Award this week during the Linn County quarterly employee recognition breakfast.
“I was completely shocked to find out I had been nominated,” Basquin said. “I never expected an award.”
‘Above and beyond’
Linn County Attorney Nick Maybanks, as a member of the legislative committee for the Iowa County Attorneys Association, nominated Basquin for the award.
“Every year the committee meets to discuss proposals to help us (prosecutors) do our jobs to protect victims and the public better,” Maybanks said.
Maybanks said he asks the office staff if they have any bill proposals the committee might consider as legislative priorities for the year.
Basquin brought the no-contact issue to his attention last year, and Maybanks took it to the county attorneys’ committee, where it gained unanimous support because prosecutors had encountered the same issue.
“Her advocacy for crime victims isn’t confined to this office and courthouse,” Maybanks said of Basquin. “She has always been active in the greater community and has been one of the leaders in the state for victim services. This is just one example of how she goes above and beyond her job.”
Basquin said she didn’t know if her proposal would make the priorities list but knew lawmakers would likely support it if it did.
Even so, getting a legislative bill passed unanimously “is not an easy thing to do in the current political climate where the two parties cannot agree on much of anything,” Maybanks said.
Victim/witness coordinators are important in county attorney offices, he added, to “sound the alarm” and get immediate help for victims.
Those advocates ensure crime victims’ rights are protected and help them navigate the criminal justice system, which can be difficult and stressful, he said.
“Nobody has been more dedicated than Anastasia, and it’s been an honor to work with her,” Maybanks added.
The new law does not apply to lesser sex abuse charges like lascivious acts or indecent contact, but victims of those crimes can request a no-contact order at any time.
Common sense change
Basquin said she never understood why the no-contact loophole in sex abuse cases had never been closed.
In domestic violence cases, she said, a defendant has to go before a magistrate before being allowed to make bail, so a protection order or no-contact order can be issued. But that was not required for sex abuse cases.
Lawmakers, she said, may have given more consideration to no-contact orders in domestic violence cases because more of those can lead to life-threatening situations.
But sex abuse cases also cause emotional and physical trauma for victims, she said. And it becomes more difficult to serve a no-contact order to defendants after they are released from jail.
Basquin said she still loves her job after 16 years and enjoys finding ways to help victims. She also helps train law enforcement officers about domestic violence.
She said she often thinks about something her dad told her — about how our lives are like putting our fingers in a bucket of water, leaving “ripples” behind.
It’s a motivation to do more, she said, to leave more ripples.
Comments: (319) 398-8318; email@example.com