The House of Representatives passed a groundbreaking bill to protect survivors of sexual assault on Tuesday night.
The Sexual Assault Survivors' Bill of Rights ensures that survivors of sexual assault -- whether there was a prosecution or not -- have a specific set of protected rights. The bill was introduced by California representatives Mimi Walters and Zoe Lofgren.
It essentially creates a national standard for the way assault survivors must be treated by both law enforcement and other officials.
This includes the use of rape kits. Survivors can go to a hospital to get a rape kit after an assault. The kit collects evidence that can later be used in cases against assailants, should a survivor choose to press charges.
Rape kits are extremely useful in finding attackers guilty and identifying serial rapists. However, there is a giant stack of problems that prevents rape kits from being as useful as they could be.
Survivor Amanda Nguyen set out to change at least one of those problems. After she was raped, she got a kit done.
But due to the laws in her state, kits are automatically destroyed after six months. But ALSO according to the laws in her state, she has 15 years to decide if she wants to file charges. This means that every six months, she had to request that her kit not be destroyed.
Nguyen found this ridiculous – which it is – and set out to change it. She took her fight to Congress, finding legislators who would help her create and pass a bill.
The Sexual Assault Survivors' Rights Act was introduced in the Senate by Senators Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Patrick Leahy of Vermont. It passed in May.
The act also creates a group appointed by the attorney general and secretary of health and human services that consists of members of various medical and legal groups. They will create a set of guidelines to advise medical and law enforcement officials how sexual assault cases must be handled.
Now that the Bill of Rights has passed in the House of Representatives, the differences between the two pieces of legislature will be reconciled. Then, it just has to get to President Barack Obama's desk to be signed and become an actual law.
Citations: New York magazine