Revolutionary Bill For Sexual Assault Survivors Heads To The President’s Desk
Advocates Hail Passage Of ‘Bill Of Rights’ For Sexual Assault Victims
A new innovative bill extending needed rights to sexual assault victims was passed with no opposition in the Senate late Wednesday, and it now heads to President Obama’s desk for the final step in becoming law. The president is expected to sign the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Rights Act and advocates are hoping this will be the start of big changes on the state level in enacting similar legislation across the country.
The Guardian summarizes the key points of the bill:
The bill, inspired by a 24-year-old survivor of sexual assault and introduced in February, extends numerous rights to people whose rape kits are being stored and processed by federal law enforcement agencies. It includes a right to have a rape kit stored, without charge, until the statute of limitations expires, and a right to be notified in writing 60 days before a rape kit is destroyed.
Rape victims also can request to have their kit preserved under the legislation. The bill prohibits law enforcement from charging victims for a forensic exam, and victims have the right to know any important details forensic testing reveals – such as whether they ingested a date rape drug.
Advocates hope this legislation will inspire states to pass similar laws. This soon-to-be law only applies to sexual assault crimes committed on federal or tribal lands and cases tried in federal courts.
One of the key sponsors and author of the bill, Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, applauded its passage without a single vote against:
This is a momentous day for survivors of sexual assault! The bill I authored & intro’d to provide them basic rights is now heading to @POTUS
— Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (@SenatorShaheen) September 28, 2016
Shaheen was inspired and pushed to author the bill by Amanda Nguyen, the 24-year-old referred to above. Nguyen was raped and discovered the horrid difficulties in existing laws when trying to do something as simple as finding information about her rape kit. Instead of walking away too fed up to deal with the problems, she started her own group called Rise to advocate for better protection of sexual assault victims. In a short period of time, Nguyen and Rise have been very successful at pushing for changes in states like Massachusetts and California and have their sights set on many more.
Nguyen is aspiring to be an astronaut so her determination is as strong as you’ll find anywhere. One quote from her is a clear sign of what a great inspiration she can be:
“I could accept injustice or rewrite the law,” Nguyen said. “I chose rewriting the law.”
It isn’t hard to find grave injustices in America’s legal system when it comes to sexual assault. The stories are everywhere. But, with individuals like Nguyen working so hard to fix this broken process, it may not be long before the horrifying instances we see too often in the justice system become a thing of the past. It certainly appears this new legislation is a big and truly significant step in the right direction.
Featured image by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.