Senate Judiciary Committee Approves Legislation to Empower Survivors of Sexual Assault Introduced by Shaheen, Blumenthal & Leahy

April 14, 2016

**The Sexual Assault Survivors’ Rights Act was authored by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen with the input of Amanda Nguyen, a survivor of sexual assault** 

**Legislative breakthrough occurs during Sexual Assault Awareness Month** 

**Change.org petition calling on Congress to act, now has over 90,000 signatures**

(Washington, DC)—Legislation to establish basic rights for survivors of sexual assault has cleared a key hurdle in Congress. This morning, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved legislation introduced by Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and the Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), that codifies basic rights for survivors of sexual assault and serves as a federal model for reform efforts in states across the country. Currently, depending on the jurisdiction, sexual assault survivors often experience a complex and cryptic maze of policies that deter them from pursuing justice. Senator Shaheen authored The Sexual Assault Survivors’ Rights Act with the input of Amanda Nguyen, a survivor of sexual assault who has bravely shared her harrowing experience navigating the criminal justice system. This legislation was added to the Adam Walsh Reauthorization Act and passed out of committee by unanimous consent.

“It’s appropriate that during Sexual Assault Awareness Month, the Senate has taken an important step towards changing the culture of how sexual assault survivors are treated in our criminal justice system,” said Shaheen. “Far too many survivors experience a criminal justice system that’s working against them, not for them. I’m very pleased that we were able to make bipartisan progress on this legislation and I hope we can do the same with a vote in the Senate in the near future.”

“This bill takes a strong step toward simple justice for sexual assault survivors,” said Blumenthal. “Far too often, the criminal justice process continues the trauma survivors have already experienced – they find that evidence was destroyed, or their cases are opaque procedures with conflicting rules. Reporting sexual assault requires incredible bravery and resilience, and it must lead to a clear and comprehensible path toward justice.” 

“Too often, survivors of sexual assault feel abandoned by our criminal justice system,” said Leahy. “Time and again we have seen how their cases are not taken seriously, how evidence is not preserved or tested in their cases. This is unacceptable. I am proud of the work we have done to ensure their voices are heard through the Debbie Smith Act, the Leahy-Crapo Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act and now the Sexual Assault Survivors Rights Act.  Survivors of sexual assault must be treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.”

The Sexual Assault Survivors' Rights Act builds on the success of the Crime Victims’ Rights Act to address unique challenges faced by sexual assault survivors, particularly regarding notice, access, and preservation of sexual assault evidence collection kits.  Specifically, the bill would establish the following rights:

  • The right to have a sexual assault evidence collection kit preserved for the entire relevant statute of limitations.
  • The right to be notified in writing 60 days prior to the destruction of a sexual assault evidence collection kit.
  • The right to request further preservation of a sexual assault evidence collection kit.
  • The right to be informed of important results of a sexual assault forensic examination.

The bill would empower survivors to make more informed decisions throughout the criminal justice process by supporting state efforts to better notify survivors of available resources as well as applicable state rights and policies.  Finally, the bill would establish a joint Department of Justice and Health and Human Services working group to more effectively implement best practices regarding the care and treatment of survivors across the country.

A Change.org petition calling for the rights included in the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Rights Act has gathered over 90,000 signatures.