Congress Says ‘Yes’ to Survivors’ Rights

A bill that demonstrates an ongoing commitment to the complex needs and rights of survivors cleared te House of Representatives on September 6.

The Survivors’ Bill of Rights Act takes a clear stand that survivors should have full access to sexual assault forensic exams and forensic evidence collection kits—commonly called “rape kits”—after experiencing sexual assault. The act also allows survivors to request that kits be preserved for the duration of the statute of limitations and prioritizes victim notification regarding test results.

A version of the bill passed the Senate in May, sponsored by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH). RAINN advocated for the Senate and House bills, working with a dedicated team of survivors who were tireless in their efforts to see the bill become law.

According to The Hill: “California Reps. Mimi Walters (R) and Zoe Lofgren (D), who introduced the bill, said the measure would help establish a standard for people who face varying laws surrounding sexual assault cases in jurisdictions across the country. Creating uniform guidelines at the federal level could push states to adopt similar measures.”

A strong advocate for the bill is survivor and advocate Amanda Nguyen. After encountering challenges in navigating the criminal justice system, Amanda founded RISE, an organization dedicated to advancing survivors’ rights. RISE also circulated a petition to urge support for the legislation. Nguyen characterized introduction of the bill as a “first step to having uniform basic rights for survivors across the country.”

Rebecca O’Connor, who led RAINN’s advocacy efforts for the bill, said, “This common-sense bill helps to ensure that no matter where in the country they happen to reside, survivors of sexual assault will have access to things like a clear summary of their rights in the criminal justice system and clear guidance as to when and how rape kit evidence will be preserved. We look forward to seeing this become law, and to working to ensure the House of Representatives continues, this fall, to prioritize justice for all."

Having passed both the House and Senate, the Survivors' Bill of Rights Act will soon be signed into law by the president. 

Journalists interested in learning more about the Survivors’ Bill of Rights Act, access to sexual assault forensic exams, the rape kit backlog, and other policy priorities may contact RAINN’s communications manager, Sara McGovern, at

This article was updated on September 28, 2016.

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