NADLER’S STATEMENT ON THE SURVIVORS’ BILL OF RIGHTS ACT OF 2016
Today, House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (D-NY.) delivered the following remarks during the House Judiciary Committee’s hearing on the “Survivors’ Bill of Rights Act of 2016” by the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. In October of 2016, we enacted the “Survivor’s Bill of Rights Act,” an important law to provide much-needed protections and rights to victims of sexual assault as they both seek to heal and to demand justice.
This law was created because survivors’ advocacy groups worked diligently to bring this issue to the attention of Congress and to guide introduction of a bill that quickly became law.
These advocacy groups, such as RISE, started by Amanda Ngyuen [pronounced New-in] who will testify before us today, are responsible for enlightening us as to how the treatment of the victims of rape and other sexual offenses 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 are 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.
That is why passage of the Survivors’ Bill of Rights was critical.
This law should help guarantee that these rights are enforced uniformly throughout the United States. Geographic location should not dictate the quality of attention or degree of information provided to victims.
One of the law’s most important provisions will ensure that a valuable investigative tool, commonly known as a rape kit, is always available in the investigation of a sexual assault.
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.
Under this law, survivors have the right to completion of a rape kit, free of cost; the right to preservation of their rape kit until the statute of limitations for prosecution expires or for twenty years; and the right to notification of the results of their rape kit.
I note that, for many years, I have fought to reduce the backlog of untested rape kits, participating in efforts to enact the Debbie Smith Act, which has been instrumental in helping to address this problem. I am heartened that the Survivors’ Bill of Rights has done even more to encourage the proper use of this important tool for solving these horrific crimes.
In addition, the Survivors’ Bill of Rights was enacted with the goal of ensuring that victims are included in the investigation of their cases; that their input will be required and respected; and that they will remain informed and involved.
When we extended these rights under federal law, we hoped that it would serve as a catalyst for state legislatures to adopt similar laws to ensure uniform treatment of sexual assault victims in state courts, as well. Indeed, we have seen the enactment of a number of such state statutes, and introduction of such bills in many other states.
Today, we welcome our panel of witnesses to share with us their insights into the implementation of this law, how states are progressing in changing their laws, and what remains to be done to assist survivors of sexual assault.
I look forward to our discussion of these important issues.