August 04, 2021

Grassley, Shaheen Reintroduce Survivors’ Bill of Rights in the States Act to Provide Sexual Assault Survivors with Additional Protections

 
WASHINGTON – Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) today introduced legislation to promote justice for survivors of crimes of sexual violence across the country. The Survivors’ Bill of Rights in the States Act encourages states to adopt the same protections for survivors of state sex crimes that already exist at the federal level. Reps. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.) and Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) today introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
 
“We must continue to support survivors of sexual assault and provide some much needed certainty about the preservation of evidence. Forensics kits are essential to delivering justice and holding perpetrators accountable,” Grassley said. “This bipartisan legislation encourages states to apply the same standards across the country and give survivor’s more resources to move forward.”
 
“While some states have taken action to support survivors of sexual assault, it is egregious that survivors still are not guaranteed rights or protected in the majority of our fifty states. To create a more uniform criminal justice system that wholly supports survivors and ensures accountability, every state must pass legislation that protects these rights,” Shaheen said. “My bill incentivizes states to do just that by codifying and standardizing survivor rights. I’m proud to help lead efforts in the Senate to change the culture around sexual assault and ensure survivors are supported in our justice system.”
 
In 2016, Grassley led the Senate Judiciary Committee’s effort to unanimously approve the Survivors’ Bill of Rights Act, which Shaheen introduced. The legislation guaranteed rights for survivors of sexual assault in federal cases and led to 21 states adopting similar legislation. The bipartisan Survivors’ Bill of Rights in the States Act builds on the legacy of the initial legislation, which was enacted after the House of Representatives introduced the same package several weeks later, by ensuring that all survivors, not just those in federal cases, are protected. Grassley and Shaheen first introduced this legislation in 2019.
 
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 additional federal funding equivalent to a percentage of the formula grant funding that they already receive under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) STOP grant program from the Department of Justice. 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 statutory limitations period or 20 years, whichever is shorter.
·         The right to be informed of results 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. 
 
“Every 73 seconds an American is sexually assaulted,” Amanda Nguyen, founder and CEO of Rise, said. “We applaud Senators Grassley and Shaheen and Representatives Speier, Armstrong, and Lofgren for their leadership on this critical issue and are grateful that Congress is continuing to work together in a bipartisan way to support survivors across the country.”
 

“It is essential to give states the tools they need to pass strong protections for survivors of sexual assault. The Survivors Bill of Rights in the State Act incentivizes states to enact strong laws, and the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence is grateful to Senators Shaheen and Grassley and Rep. Speier for their leadership on this important legislation,” Terri Poore, Policy Director, National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, said.