House Passes Legislation Expanding Protections For Sexual Assault Victims

It gives them some control over their evidence kits.

Washington (KM)  Some additional protections for sexual assault victims are contained in a bill passed Tuesday night by the US House of Representatives.

The legislation,  which was approved unanimously,  establishes a right for free forensic exams for victims in federal sexual assault cases, and the preservation of their evidence kits (also called “rape kits”) for 20 years or until the statute of limitations runs out.

It also specifies that survivors have a right to be notified in writing prior to the destruction of their evidence kits so that they have the opportunity to request that they be preserved. Victims must also be informed of a DNA profile match.

“Survivors of these tragic incidents obviously deserve justice, and that’s starts with having the evidence so that they can have a chance at obtaining justice,” said 6th District Representative John Delaney (D-Md.)

The legislation also calls on the US Attorney General and the Department of Health and Human Services to establish a working group to develop best practices for treatment of sexual assault victims. “Right now, there’s a patchwork of various standards around the country,” says Delaney. “This creates a federal standard which I think is important with a minimum set of requirements, the most basic being that they have access to a kit. This evidence is to preserve so that they can prosecute their case and receive the justice they deserve.”

Even though this bill covers federal sexual assault cases, Delaney says passage of this bill could encourage states to adopt similar standards when it comes to sexual assault victims. “It will likely have broader implications beyond just what it does for federal cases because it will likely encourage states to create a similar standard,” he says.

This bill must be reconciled with a similar measure in the Senate before it can be sent to the President for his signature, according to Delaney.