“I hope that these basic rights will encourage more survivors to come forward and pursue justice.”
Images via Twitter.
On Oct. 7, 2016, while a horrified nation heard Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump brag about sexually assaulting women, President Barack Obama was busy signing a law that guaranteed rights to sexual assault survivors.
In a rare show of bipartisanship, the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights was passed unanimously in the House and Senate and then swiftly signed into law.
The new law grants survivors of sexual assault the right to have their rape kits stored free of charge until the statute of limitations expires and the right to be notified 60 days before their kit is destroyed. It also provides that survivors will no longer be charged or prevented from getting a rape kit examination, even if they have yet to file a police report.
“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. Mimi Walters (R-California) said. “Survivors of sexual assault have faced unspeakable trauma, and they should not face unnecessary barriers to justice.”
The bill was inspired by 24-year-old sexual-assault survivor Amanda Nguyen. Nguyen was raped two years ago and submitted evidence of the crime to the state of Massachusetts through a rape kit. Soon after, she was notified by the state that the kit could be destroyed in as little as six months unless she filed an extension. Fearful that her evidence would be destroyed, Nguyen had to track down her kit every six months through a labyrinth of red tape and file an extension. “The system essentially makes me live my life by date of rape,” Nguyen said.
To protect herself and other assault survivors, Nguyen contacted Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire), and the two worked together to craft the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights.
“Beginning today, our nation’s laws stand firmly on the side of survivors of sexual assault,” Shaheen said in a statement. “I hope that these basic rights will encourage more survivors to come forward and pursue justice.”