Senate Unanimously Passed Bill Extending Rights to Sexual Assault Survivors

The Sexual Assault Survivors’ Rights Act shapes a federal model for sexual assault survivors’ basic rights.

Passed as a part of the Adam Walsh Reauthorization Act, a bill extending funding for programs registering sex offenders, the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Rights Act was introduced in February by Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) after she met with a 24 year old sexual assault survivor, Amanda Nguyen, who was forced to return to the state of her assault every six months to prevent her rape-kit from being destroyed.

Survivors often face complex policies state-by-state that fail to inform them of their rights to access the results of their rape-kits. The Sexual Assault Survivors’ Rights Act outlines that a survivor has the right to not be charged for a forensic exam, the right to be notified 60 days prior to the destruction of a rape-kit and the right to have a rape-kit persevered throughout a state’s entire statue of limitations.

The bill will provide a financial incentive to states that provide clear information to survivors regarding its policies on the preservation of rape-kits. A work group created by the Department of Justice and Health and Human Services will also be established to follow up with efforts to continue examining the criminal justice system for survivors.

On the Senate floor on May 23rd, Senator Shaheen turned her address towards survivors, “You do have rights. We do care about you. And if you choose to come forward, we will be there for you. And we are going to ensure a justice system that treats you with dignity and fairness.”

The Sexual Assault Survivors’ Rights Act is the first federal law to outline what basic services victims of sexual violence are entitled to – urge Congress to support the bill by signing the petition here.

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