Finally, it seems as though our government has taken a huge step towards protecting and actually helping survivors of sexual violence as they seek justice. Earlier today, the House of Representatives unanimously voted to pass an act called the Survivors’ Bill of Rights.
The bill now goes to President Obama, and once passed, it will prohibit forensic labs from destroying rape kits before getting permission from survivors — who can deny the lab’s requests to destroy them. And it ensures that all survivors have access to their rape kits.
The rape kit backlog in this country is horrifying. As Mic reports, there are 400,000 unprocessed rape kits in the United States. That is 400,000 uninvestigated sexual assaults. In Detroit alone, 11,000 unprocessed rape kits were discovered in a police storage locker — prompting singer Erykah Badu to donate her concert proceeds toward efforts to get them tested. This bill of rights will help make sure that the kits from the country’s backlogs are not destroyed or lost in the system.
The bill of rights also requires the rape kit procedure to be free for all survivors, and guarantees that all evidence collected from the rape kit will be preserved for 20 years.
Amanda Nguyen, a survivor, founder of civil rights nonprofit organization, Rise, and advocate of the bill, has had to call a forensics lab every six months to make sure her kit is not destroyed. She has been working with legislators to draft the bill, and told People, “I can’t wait for the day I can write to the forensic lab and say, ‘This is the law,’ and I will no longer need to do this… You can’t destroy my rape kit anymore – you can’t destroy anybody’s.”
We are so grateful for the work of Amanda Nguyen and all advocates who are fighting for justice for survivors everywhere.