Bill of Rights for survivors of sexual assault is approved by President Obama

Last Friday, Oct. 7. President Obama took a stand to support sexual assault victims by signing the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Rights Act. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, sponsored the bill after hearing a horrific story from Amanda Nguyen. Nguyen, a young woman, had to hound the police every six months to not destroy her rape kit.

This new bill is meant to empower survivors by giving them more control over their own rape kits. It allows all victims the right to a free rape kit whether or not a police report has been filled. The kit cannot be discarded until the statue of limitations expires. The survivor must also be informed sixty days prior to the deadline; the state must continue storing the kit if the survivor requests it. According to UPROXX, “It [the bill]  also states that all victims of sexual assault are to be informed of support services and information about their rape kits in writing.” The Sexual Assault Survivors’ Rights Act is also the first bill at the federal level to address the backlog of untested rape kits. There are more than 100,000 untested rape kits all across the United States. Other than free access to rape kits, survivors are to be provided with a sexual assault advocate if they request one.

The bill was passed unanimously by both the House of Representatives and the Senate. The bill was passed by not only Obama but also by Paul Ryan, the House Speaker. Shaheen commented about the support, “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.” The partisan agreement during the time of a very divided government also gave hope to Nguyen for change, “At the heart of this is a deep belief of equality under the law and making sure that when survivors do choose to engage with the justice system that they are met with something that is fair.”

The bill is a step in the right direction to helping sexual assault survivors to receive justice.