The House Just Voted to Protect Survivors of Sexual Assault
A historic piece of legislation, the federal Survivors' Bill of Rights — written to protect survivors of sexual assault when they come forward to report and amend how rape kits are handled in sexual assault cases — passed unanimously in the House on Tuesday.
The bipartisan measure focuses heavily on the handling of rape kits, the medical exams that sexual assault survivors undergo to gather forensic evidence, which are notorious for being backlogged and frequently going untested.
Introduced by Representatives Mimi Walters (R-Calif.) and Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), the legislation guarantees survivors of sexual assault have access to rape kits — specifically, the right to undergoing such evidence collection without being charged. It requires that survivors are informed of any test results associated with their rape kits, preserves the kits for a state's maximum statute of limitations (or up to 20 years), and requires that survivors be notified 60 days before the kit is set to be destroyed (survivors can then ask for their kit to preserved if they so wish).
"The uneven patchwork of laws across the country and the lack of substantive rights for sexual assault survivors prevent them from having full access to the justice system," Rep. Walters said on the House floor on Tuesday. "Survivors of sexual assault have faced unspeakable trauma, and they should not face unnecessary barriers to justice."
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• Bill Cosby Will Stand Trial in Sexual Assault Case
• What We Still Get Wrong About College Sexual Assault
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