Thursday, July 7, 2016

Statement of the Honorable John Conyers, Jr. for the Markup of H.R. 5578, the “Survivors’ Bill of Rights Act of 2016,” by the Committee on the Judiciary

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
H.R. 5578, the “Survivors’ Bill of Rights Act of 2016,” would provide needed protections and rights to victims of sexual assault.

I am proud to be an original cosponsor of this compassionate and thoughtful piece of legislation.

And, I want to congratulate my colleagues -- Representatives Zoe Lofgren and Mimi Waters – for their leadership on this bill, which will help ensure that victims obtain justice.

This legislation would provide victims of sexual assault the right to receive -- 
·         a free medical forensic examination, also known as a rape kit;
·         written notification before their rape kit is destroyed;
·         notification of the results of any forensic examination request; as well as 
·         written notification of their rights and all policies regarding collection and preservation of their rape kit.

In addition, H.R. 5578 would require a rape kit to be preserved for 20 years or for the applicable statute of limitations. 

And, the bill would allow the Department of Justice to award Victims of Crime Act grant funding to entities that provide written notice of rights and policies to survivors.

Advocacy groups, like RISE, are largely responsible for bringing to our attention that the treatment which victims of rape and other sexual offenses receives varies from state-to-state.

In some cases, victims feel their voices go unheard in a system that they are initially told is there to help them through the arduous and sometimes traumatic process that comes after being sexually assaulted.

Victims of sexual assault feel victimized again when they find themselves alone and without help to navigate policies and procedures that block their access to the justice system and, thus, their ability to obtain actual justice.

H.R. 5578 will help ensure that the rights it establishes will be uniformly provided throughout the United States to victims of sexual assault, in federal courts, in every state and every territory. Geographic location would no longer dictate the quality of attention or degree of information provided to victims.

Most importantly, this legislation encourages the use of rape kits and ensures their preservation.  

DNA, obtained from rape kits, is probably the most useful and significant piece of physical evidence in the prosecution of an offense involving nonconsensual sexual contact, enabling investigators and prosecutors to link perpetrators to their crimes.

Accordingly, I support this bill and hope that my colleagues will do the same.

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