Senate Passes Shaheen-Blumenthal-Leahy Legislation to Empower Survivors of Sexual Assault
**The Sexual Assault Survivors’ Rights Act was authored by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen with the input of Amanda Nguyen, a survivor of sexual assault**
**Shaheen spoke on the Senate Floor prior to the vote**
(Washington, DC) — Legislation authored by Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) to establish basic rights for survivors of sexual assault passed the Senate unanimously this evening. Introduced by Shaheen, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Rights Act passed as part of the Adam Walsh Reauthorization Act – legislation that has broad bipartisan support. The Sexual Assault Survivors’ Rights Act was authored with the input of Amanda Nguyen, a survivor of sexual assault who has bravely shared her harrowing experience navigating the criminal justice system. The legislation 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.
“It’s been 10 months now since Amanda Nguyen first walked into my office,” said Shaheen. “The system failed Amanda and so many other survivors of sexual assault across the country. Today, the Senate has sent a message that it’s time to change the culture around how survivors are treated in our criminal justice system. I’m hopeful that the House will soon follow suit and we can send this important legislation to the President’s desk.”
In a recent Medium post, Senator Shaheen tells the story of working with Amanda to craft this legislation. 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.
“Passage of this important bill is a meaningful step forward in the pursuit of justice for sexual assault survivors,” said Blumenthal. “Far too often, the criminal justice process further compounds the searing trauma survivors have already experienced. They find that evidence was destroyed, or that they are blocked from moving forward with their cases by opaque procedures with conflicting rules. Reporting sexual assault requires incredible bravery and resilience. It should be the first step down a clear and comprehensible path toward justice.”
“Survivors of sexual assault must be treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. But too often, they feel abandoned by our criminal justice system,” said Leahy. “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. I want to thank and applaud Senator Shaheen for her hard work and leadership in getting this bill passed by the Senate, and I urge the House to do the same.”
The bill will 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 will establish a joint Departments 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 100,000 signatures.