POLITICS

The Idea Of Basic Rights For Rape Victims Moves A Step Closer To Reality

A key Senate panel agrees that states should stop throwing out rape kits.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted Thursday to approve a measure essentially creating a bill of rights for survivors of sexual assault.

The Sexual Assault Survivors’ Rights Act would set forth some basic protections for those who report their sexual assaults. These would include the right to be informed about the results of forensic testing of their rape kit and the right to have that rape kit preserved until the relevant state’s statute of limitations had expired.

The bill was added as an amendment to the Adam Walsh Reauthorization Act, which provides federal funding to improve the tracking of sex offenders through state registries. The legislation now heads to the full Senate.

Rise, a nonprofit group started by a sexual assault survivor, has been working with Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), who introduced the rights bill last month. Rise’s founder, Harvard University alumna Amanda Nguyen, discovered after she was raped that rights for sexual assault victims vary widely between states.

Shaheen deplored the failures of “a criminal justice system that’s working against [survivors], not for them,” in a Thursday statement.

The Sexual Assault Survivors’ Rights Act is meant to set a baseline only on the rights of assault victims. It also calls for a working group, established by the attorney general and the secretary of health and human services, to develop and disseminate best practices on the care and treatment of survivors and related forensic evidence. 

“We know that there is much work left to do, and we now look to Senate leadership to pass this legislation, which will have a profound impact on the lives of the more than 25 million survivors of sexual assault across the U.S.,” Nguyen said in a statement after the vote Thursday.

A Change.org petition supporting a bill of rights for rape survivors currently has more than 92,000 signatures.

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Tyler Kingkade is a national reporter covering sexual violence and is based in New York. You can contact him at tyler.kingkade@huffingtonpost.com or on Twitter: @tylerkingkade.