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Governor establishes sexual assault survivors’ bill of rights

Posted 21 December 2018 at 2:21 pm

Press Release, Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today signed legislation (A.8401-C/S.8977) to establish a sexual assault survivors’ bill of rights.

The new law requires the Department of Health, in consultation with the Division of Criminal Justice Services, the Office of Victim Services, and other stakeholders, to establish a sexual assault survivors’ bill of rights for purposes of informing survivors of their rights under state law. Notifying victims of their legal rights will help ensure survivors request and receive the information they need to navigate complicated medical and criminal justice systems.

“As the federal government shamefully ignores the voices of sexual assault survivors, New York is doing everything in our power to empower survivors and ensure they are treated with dignity and respect,” Governor Cuomo said. “This legislation will support our work to combat the scourge of sexual harassment and assault, help deliver justice to survivors and make New York a safer state for all.”

The bill of rights includes the right to:

• Consult with a rape crisis or victim assistance organization;

• Appropriate health care services at no cost; and

• Receive updates on their sexual offense evidence kit and the status of their case.

The bill requires all law enforcement agencies to adopt policies that help them communicate effectively with survivors and it creates a Victim’s Right to Notice, which enables a survivor to request information on their sexual offense evidence kit from the police agency or prosecutorial agency with jurisdiction over the crime.

The Governor’s action today will create greater transparency and accountability within the medical and criminal justice processes, and help ensure all sexual assault survivors are treated with dignity, compassion and respect. The Sexual Assault Victim Bill of Rights will immediately be authorized and directed to be completed on or before the date the legislation takes effect, which is in 180 days.

This legislation builds on Governor Cuomo’s record of supporting sexual assault survivors, which includes clearing the backlog of sexual assault evidence kits and mandating that newly acquired sexual assault evidence kits are – upon consent of a survivor – tested by law enforcement in a speedy manner. In addition, as part of the FY 2019 Budget, Governor Cuomo passed legislation to extend the length of time sexual offense evidence collection kits are preserved from 30 days to 20 years, delivering justice to survivors.

Selena Bennett-Chambers, Policy Director at the New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said, “We applaud Governor Cuomo and the New York State legislature for enacting this bill into law. Recent reports of survivors of sexual violence being improperly billed by several hospitals for forensic rape examinations support the need for this law. In addition, providing survivors of sexual violence with the right to receive information regarding the status of their kits from a designee of a police or prosecutorial agency, who is trained in trauma and victim response, is a huge step in the right direction. Survivors of sexual violence should be supported in knowing their rights and their rights must be upheld.”

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