President Obama Signs Historic ‘Sexual Assault Survivor’s Act’ Into Law

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.

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 31: (L-R) President Park Geun-Hye of the Republic of Korea, President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan attend a meeting at the Nuclear Security Summit March 31, 2016 in Washington, DC. World leaders are gathering for a two-day conference that will address a range of issues including ongoing efforts to prevent terrorist groups from accessing nuclear material. (Photo by Dennis Brack-Pool/Getty Images)

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.

Rape Survivors Are Attacked Twice, Once by Their Rapists, a Second Time by the Justice System

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.”

Amanda will not have to “re-live” the anniversary date of her rape any longer, nor return to the place which may not hold good memories for her. Essentially, it allows her to begin the healing process, while legally ensuring that all evidence is kept safe if and when her case goes to trial, according to Law Street.

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.”

According to Mother Jones, this law will help ensure that rape victims everywhere are entitled to collection of evidence and time to go to trial if the wish to, helping to give them back some power over the situation.

“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.”

[Featured Image by Alex Wong/Getty Images]