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Reps Speier, Armstrong & Lofgren, Sens Grassley & Shaheen Introduce Bipartisan Survivors’ Bill of Rights in the States Act

November 12, 2019
Press Release

Washington, DC –Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA), co-chair of the Bipartisan Task Force to End Sexual Violence, along with Congressman Kelly Armstrong (R-ND), Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) today announced the introduction of the bipartisan Survivors’ Bill of Rights in the States Act.

In 2016, Congress took bold action to combat the epidemic of sexual violence by unanimously passing the Survivors’ Bill of Rights Act that guaranteed rights for survivors of sexual assault in federal cases and led to 21 states adopting similar legislation. The Survivors’ Bill of Rights in the States Act builds on that legacy by ensuring that all survivors, not just those in federal cases, are protected.

“A staggering 25 million Americans are rape survivors. This epidemic of sexual violence is a serious public health issue that demands national outrage and attention,” Rep. Speier said. “No survivor, regardless of what state they live in, should be retraumatized by a broken criminal justice system or forced to suffer the indignity of being charged for their rape kit or have their rape kits destroyed without consent before the statute of limitations has expired. Survivors deserve better than a patchwork of laws that vary from state to state – their civil rights should be bedrock. This is how we can restore justice to a shattered process and ensure that our brave survivors can move forward.”

“Sexual assault is a horrific crime and a victim’s journey through the criminal justice system can be incredibly traumatic. This bill incentivizes states to guarantee victims the right to ensure that forensic evidence is preserved, be informed of results of any forensic testing, and be notified in writing prior to the destruction of any forensic evidence. The collection and preservation of forensic evidence is best way to bring justice to victims. Forensic evidence gets convictions and reduces the chances of a victim having to testify at trial,” Rep. Armstrong said.

“Three years ago, strong women walked into my office with the intention of taking their trauma and changing federal law to improve the lives of millions of sexual assault survivors. Their refusal to be victims and desire to help others led to the passage of the Survivor’s Bill of Rights Act, which I was proud to introduce. Today, we have the opportunity to advance that progress and give states another tool to ensure victims of sexual assault have meaningful access to justice,” Rep. Lofgren said.

“In their pursuit of justice, the last thing sexual assault survivors need is uncertainty about the preservation of evidence. Forensics kits are essential to delivering justice and holding perpetrators accountable. It was a privilege to work with Amanda Nguyen and my colleagues to secure basic rights for survivors of federal sex crimes. This bipartisan legislation encourages states to apply the same standards across the country,” Sen. Grassley said.

“Sexual assault is a pervasive problem in our culture that must be rooted out. Our strategy to stop, reduce, and prevent sexual assault requires a comprehensive approach that must include robust support for survivors. That is precisely what this new, bipartisan legislation seeks to accomplish,” Sen. Shaheen said. “Building off my legislation that ultimately became law – the Survivors Bill of Rights Act – this new bill provides an incentive for states to pass legislation that guarantees survivors’ rights are protected in the criminal justice system. This legislation seeks to ensure that survivors’ rights in the justice system are consistent in every state, not just at the federal level. I appreciate the bipartisan, bicameral support to make sexual assault survivors’ rights a top priority in Congress, and I’ll continue to work across the aisle to push this bill forward.”

The Survivors’ Bill of Rights in the States Act encourages states to ensure that survivors have, at minimum, the rights guaranteed to survivors under federal law. States that provide these rights would be eligible for 10 percent of their STOP formula grant funding, the largest Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) grant. These rights include:

  • The right not to be prevented from, or charged for, receiving a medical forensic examination.  
  • The right to have a sexual assault evidence collection kit or its probative contents preserved without charge for the maximum applicable statute of limitations or 20 years, whichever is shorter.
  • The right to be informed of any result of a sexual assault evidence collection kit.
  • The right to be informed in writing of policies governing the kit’s collection and preservation.
  • The right, if the government intends to destroy or dispose of the kit, to receive written notice not later than 60 days before the date of the intended destruction or disposal, and the right, upon written request, to have the kit preserved.

The funding could be used to implement these rights, reduce the rape kit backlog, provide assistance and resources to survivors, and preserve rape kits or their contents.

The bill is endorsed by RISE, the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, End Rape on Campus, and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Quotes from supporting organizations are listed below.

"Every 73 seconds an American is sexually assaulted," said Amanda Nguyen, founder and CEO of Rise. "We are so grateful that Congress is working together in a bipartisan way to support survivors across the country."

"It is so important for states to pass strong laws to protect the rights of survivors of sexual assault, and we think it's a great approach to incentivize states with funds they can use to address the needs of survivors. We applaud Representatives Speier, Armstrong, and Lofgren and Senators Grassley and Shaheen for introducing the Survivors' Bill of Rights in the States Act," said Terri Poore, Policy Director, National Alliance to End Sexual Violence.

A one-pager of the bill can be found here, and a copy of the bill text can be found here.

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