President Obama Signs Historic 'Sexual Assault Survivor's Act' Into Law

Amy Schaeffer

One of his last Presidential acts may be of tremendous benefit to rape survivors as President Obama signed a historic "Sexual Assault Survivor's Act" into law on Friday. This bill is important because it addresses how sexual assault collection kits, also known as "rape kits" to the common public, are handled, stored, disposed of, and it also addresses letting rape victims know that their "rape kits" are about to be destroyed and can petition to keep them stored longer.

The law also states that the rape kits must be kept up to each state's maximum limits, or twenty years. Rape victims must be notified in writing sixty days before their "rape kit," which commonly includes things like fluid samples, hairs, and fibers collected from the victim, and other biological specimens that may undergo DNA analysis, is destroyed. This allows them to protest the destruction of the kit if they wish.

The law was not written by President Obama, but needed his signature to be signed into law. The law was introduced by Jeanne Shaheen in February, 2016, and has been termed "The Sexual Assault Survivor's Act," according to Glamour. The new law allows rape victims to know where their evidence is located, whether it has been tested, and the results. It also prevents them from being billed for the rape collection kit or storage of the rape collection kit, which was a reality that occurred for many women prior to this law.

The driving force behind this act was the procedures surrounding the rape collection kit of Amanda Nguyen, age 24, who is a rape survivor and found her legal fight in trouble after her "rape kit" was threatened to be destroyed after only six months. Amanda, who was sexually assaulted in 2013, had her rape kit was submitted to the state of Massachusetts where the assault occurred. She was told she had up to fifteen years to pursue legal action, but the state threatened to destroy the evidence after only six months. Because of this, she was asked to petition the state to hold the evidence every six months, which she said was emotionally traumatizing to her.

"The system essentially makes me live my life by date of rape. We want to thank President Obama for signing the Sexual Assault Survivors' Bill of Rights into law today. This historic piece of legislation codifies the federal rights of the 25 million rape survivors in America and serves as a model for Statehouses to adopt."

Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) was contacted by Amanda Nguyen and began to craft the standards of the law that President Obama signed on Friday, according to Mother Jones.

"Beginning today, our nation's laws stand firmly on the side of survivors of sexual assault. I hope that these basic rights will encourage more survivors to come forward and pursue justice."
"The measure focuses on collecting and preserving rape kits, the forensic evidence collected in a medical examination after a suspected sexual assault. Police enter the DNA collected from rape kits into state and national databases, sometimes identifying and solving other crimes in addition to the initial rape case. Rape kits—more than 100,000 of them, as of 2014—have often languished for years in police warehouses and crime labs, going untested due to a lack of funds and, some argue, contempt for victims. The new law is the first at the federal level to address these problems, protecting survivors' access to the initial forensic medical examination and instituting measures to ensure evidence of rape is appropriately preserved and tested."

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