“This is a monumental step in both supporting survivors of sexual assault and improving DC’s sexual assault response system,” said Julia Strange, DC JSC organizer and Director of Programs and Policy forCollective Action for Safe Spaces(CASS). “This legislation means that those who report sexual assault in the District can expect that their cases will be followed through as efficiently as possible, and that they will be treated with fairness and respect,” added Sherelle Hessell-Gordon, DC JSC organizer and Executive Director of theDC Rape Crisis Center.
The final version of the bill passed by DC Councilincludes all criteria for which the DC JSC mobilized support. In full, the legislation: 1) Grants sexual assault survivors the right to have a sexual assault victim advocate present during hospital forensic exams and in subsequent in-person police interviews; 2) Mandates the prompt processing of rape kits; 3) Provides sexual assault survivors the right to the results of their rape kits and toxicology tests; 4) Mandates that an independent consultant make semi-annual public reports on progress that MPD makes in implementing reforms; 5) Codifies DC’sSexual Assault Response Team(SART) and requires it to conduct case review; 6) Requires an annual report on sexual assault from agencies that handle cases and evidence; 7) Establishes a task force to recommend further reform to the system, including additional roles for advocates, an effective system for complaints and juvenile sexual assault system reforms.
“Passing legislation that codifies the rights of survivors of sexual assault sends a powerful message to survivors that our community leaders care about their rights and are working to protect them,” said Susan Mottet, DC JSC organizer and President of theNational Organization for Women, DC Chapter(DC NOW). “This bill was a survivor-driven advocacy effort, and we thank the brave men and women who testified and shared their stories,” said DC JSC organizer Marisa Ferri. “We’re encouraged that the passage of SAVRAA, especially along with DC JSC’s amendments, will help ensure that survivors who report their assault can begin the process of healing and obtaining justice.”
The Sexual Assault Victims’ Rights Amendment Act will be voted on again and then passed onto the Mayor to be signed into law.