Reps. Armstrong, Speier, Lofgren and Senators Grassley and Shaheen Introduce Bipartisan Survivors’ Bill of Rights in the States Act

August 4, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Today, Congressman Kelly Armstrong (R-ND) joined Congresswomen Jackie Speier (D-CA) and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) to introduce the bipartisan, bicameral Survivors’ Bill of Rights in the States Act.

In 2016, Congress unanimously passed the Survivors’ Bill of Rights Act that guaranteed rights for survivors of sexual assault in federal cases and led to 42 similar laws passed. The Survivors’ Bill of Rights in the States Act builds on that legislation by ensuring that all survivors, not just those in federal cases, are protected.

“After enduring horrific situations, sexual assault victims often experience new traumas while navigating the criminal justice system. Our bill incentivizes states to guarantee that forensic evidence is preserved, victims are informed of forensic testing results, and are notified in writing if forensic evidence is scheduled to be destroyed. The collection and preservation of forensic evidence is key to bringing justice for victims, and I am honored to help advance this bipartisan legislation,” said Congressman Armstrong.

“One in five women and one in 38 men have experienced completed or attempted rape in their lifetime. What’s worse is that so many of them are further traumatized by our broken criminal justice system, which puts the burden on victims rather than perpetrators. This isn’t just a horrific violent crime, it’s an insidious public health issue that demands national outrage and attention,” said Congresswoman Speier. “No survivor should ever suffer the indignity of being charged for their rape kit or have their rape kits destroyed without their consent before the statute of limitations has expired. Survivors deserve better than a patchwork of laws that vary from state to state – their rights should be bedrock. This is how we can and will restore justice to a shattered process and ensure our brave survivors move forward while predators are held responsible for their vile crimes.”

“Survivors of sexual assault deserve meaningful access to justice at all levels of government,” said Congresswoman Lofgren. “Five years ago, strong women who walked into my office successfully fought for the passage of the Survivor’s Bill of Rights Act, which I was proud to lead. This legislation established vital rights for survivors, including the right of a survivor to access their evidence collection kit. The Survivors’ Bill of Rights in the States Act will take the important federal protections we achieved and encourage these protections in state cases.”

“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,” said Senator Grassley. “This bipartisan legislation builds on my years of work to provide survivors with more resources. I’m glad to work with my colleagues across party lines and in both chambers of Congress to introduce this legislation and encourage states to apply the same standards across the country.”

“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,” said Senator Shaheen. “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.”

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 entitled to 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 to be informed 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,” 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 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,” said Terri Poore, Policy Director, National Alliance to End Sexual Violence.

 

###

Issues: