Obama signs bill to prevent police destroying rape kits
It’s a step towards justice for thousands
President Obama signed legislation today that guarantees rights for people who have been sexually assaulted.
The new bill, called the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Rights Act, is essentially a bill of rights for anyone who has been sexually assaulted.
It is the first time the term “sexual assault survivor” is seen in federal code.
The bill gives the right to a free rape kit, a medical forensic examination, and ensures that the kit is preserved until the statute of limitations expires, if not for longer.
This will prevent law enforcement agencies from disposing of rape kits too soon as it must provide a victim with notice of disposal with at least 60 days of notice. On top of this, victims may also request the agency to preserve the kit for longer, which they must adhere to.
Agencies must also to provide victims with the policies governing their rape kit in writing.
The Sexual Assault Survivors’ Right Act means law enforcement agencies must also provide information to survivors about support services.
The new bill was inspired by Amanda Nguyen, who told Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a New Hampshire Democrat, her story regarding the difficulties she faced while preventing the police from destroying her rape kit.
24-year-old Amanda Nguyen was sexually assaulted in 2014 when she was studying at Harvard, and she struggled with police as the state required that untested rape kits only needed to be preserved for six months.
In a statement she said: “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.”
As well as giving rights to those who have been sexually assaulted, to the new rights for survivors, the legislation should result in a group run by the U.S. attorney general and the secretary of health and human services to develop the best treatment which will be relayed to local bodies.