It's not often that the Senate stands unanimously on a bill, but this Monday, every single member voted in favor of the Sexual Assault Survivors' Rights Act. If the House of Representatives passes the motion, it will ensure that survivors are given free rape kit tests after their assault and then informed of the results and notified 60 days prior to the destruction of the kit, with the option to preserve all evidence through the statute of limitations.
The Survivors' Rights Act was drafted by New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen with help from sexual assault survivor Amanda Nguyen and her foundation, Rise.
"America leads the world in protecting citizens' rights to liberty and equality, yet our country currently lacks baseline procedures for rape survivors depriving millions of Americans basic liberties," the Rise website states. "The Center for Disease Control reports that a staggering 25 million Americans are rape survivors—a population nearly equal to the state of Texas. Americans urgently need a comprehensive Sexual Assault Survivors' Bill of Rights that standardizes the best practices drawing on innovation we've seen implemented across the country."
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The bill has yet to pass in the House, but a resolution was introduced in the House last year that encouraged states to adopt a similar bill of rights for survivors of sexual assault—and it received support from both sides of the aisle.
Senator Shaheen wrote a Medium post to explain the bill and its background, saying that it was inspired by her personal interaction with Nguyen, who "is still required to return to the state of her assault every six months to make sure her rape kit is not destroyed."
Shaheen says the system was working against Nguyen, something many survivors fear when it comes to reporting their attacker. "When you hear about Amanda’s experience, you can see why nearly 70% of survivors don’t report their rape or decide not to press charges. This has to change."