Obama signs ‘bill of rights’ for rape survivors into law

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President Obama signed legislation into law on Friday that ensures sexual assault survivors in federal criminal cases have access to forensic evidence collection kits.

The bill, known as the Survivors’ Bill of Rights Act, guarantees the right to materials for gathering and preserving physical evidence, known as rape kits. 

Under the new law, sexual assault survivors can request preservation of the kits throughout the maximum statute of limitations and must be notified 60 days in advance prior to destruction of the kit. Survivors are also now guaranteed that they don’t have to pay for the rape kits.

{mosads}The legislation passed without opposition in the House and Senate last month.

The lawmakers behind the measure — Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) in the upper chamber and Calif. Reps. Mimi Walters (R) and Zoe Lofgren (D) in the House – said it would help provide consistency amid a patchwork of varying statutes regarding sexual assault cases across the country.

“This law guarantees these rights in the federal criminal justice system, but it is my hope this law will set an example for states to adopt similar procedures and practices,” Walters said in a statement.

The push to ensure access to rape kits was led by Amanda Nguyen, a sexual assault survivor who has had to request extending preservation of her kit every six months in Massachusetts because state laws allow it to be destroyed if the crime isn’t reported before then. 

Nguyen, a Washington, D.C. resident, explained in a recent People profile that she hasn’t formally pressed charges for a 2013 rape because she works outside of Massachusetts and doesn’t want to commit the time or resources to a lengthy trial right now.

“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,” Shaheen said in a statement. 

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