President Obama Signs Shaheen-Authored Legislation Into Law, Establishing Basic Rights for Survivors of Sexual Assault

October 07, 2016

**This is the first time ever the term ‘sexual assault survivor’ appears in federal code**

**SHAHEEN: “Beginning today, our nation’s laws stand firmly on the side of survivors of sexual assault”**

**Shaheen’s legislation, co-sponsored by Senators Blumenthal (D-CT) and Leahy (D-VT), was inspired by a meeting with a sexual assault survivor**

(Manchester, NH) — President Obama signed into law legislation authored by U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) to establish basic rights for survivors of sexual assault today. The Sexual Assault Survivors’ Rights Act, also known as the Survivors’ Bill of Rights Act of 2016, creates the first federally codified rights specifically for sexual assault survivors, and for the first time would allow survivors the opportunity to enforce those rights in federal court. The groundbreaking legislation was authored and introduced by Shaheen and co-sponsored by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee Patrick Leahy (D-VT) in February 2016, 6 months after Shaheen’s staff met with sexual assault survivor Amanda Nguyen. Representatives Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Lamar Smith (R-TX), Mimi Walters (R-CA) and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) introduced counterpart bills in the House. The renamed Survivors’ Bill of Rights Act of 2016 unanimously passed the House earlier this month and, after minor changes made in the Senate, was unanimously passed in the Senate on September 28.

“Beginning today, our nation’s laws stand firmly on the side of survivors of sexual assault,” said Senator Shaheen. “It was just over a year ago when Amanda Nguyen walked into my office, shared her heartbreaking story, and we began working on legislation. Amidst the partisan bickering and gridlock in Congress, this law demonstrates that citizens can still effect positive change and that bipartisan progress is still possible. Sexual assault remains one of the most underreported crimes and I hope that these basic rights will encourage more survivors to come forward and pursue justice. Make no mistake, there’s still much more work to be done to change the culture around sexual assault, and I will continue to lead efforts in the Senate for survivors like Amanda.” 

“Survivors of sexual assault must be treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. I am proud of the work we have done to ensure their voices are heard through the Justice for All Act, the Leahy-Crapo Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, and now the Sexual Assault Survivors Rights Act,”  said Senator Leahy.  “This law enshrines new rights for sexual assault survivors in our criminal justice system—something that is long overdue.  I applaud Senator Shaheen for her bipartisan work on this legislation that serves as a model for reform across our nation.” 

“This bill empowers survivors to seek justice by establishing a set of basic rights to ensure their sensitive and fair treatment in our criminal justice system,” said Senator Blumenthal. “The measure recognizes that reporting sexual assault requires incredible courage, but all too often, brave survivors are blocked from moving forward with their cases when they encounter opaque procedural barriers, or find that evidence was destroyed. I was proud to help lead colleagues on both sides of the aisle in sending legislation that can make a real difference in the lives of sexual assault survivors to the President’s desk for signature.”

Shaheen’s staff worked with Amanda Nguyen and a dozens of nationally-recognized experts in the sexual assault advocacy community on the legislation including National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, RAINN, International Association of Forensic Nurses, National Center for Victims of Crime, National Crime Victim Law Institute, the Consortium of Forensic Science Organizations, and the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.

Senator Shaheen has been a leader in the Senate on legislation to establish basic rights and protections for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. In July, Shaheen introduced legislation, the Fair Housing for Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Survivors Act of 2016, to establish housing protections for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, and set a nationwide standard that survivors cannot be evicted or otherwise denied access to housing for being victims of those crimes. In September, Shaheen introduced the Combat Sexual Harassment in Housing Act to make it easier for victims to bring forward certain cases of sexual harassment in rental housing under the Fair Housing Act. Last week, Shaheen introduced legislation to improve assistance for women veterans experiencing domestic violence and ensure no woman veteran attempting to leave an abusive situation is turned away for help due to lack of resources.