09.28.16

Statement On Passage Of The Survivors’ Bill of Rights Act

Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.),
Ranking Member, Senate Judiciary Committee,
On Passage Of The Survivors’ Bill of Rights Act

September 28, 2016

Today, we take an important step forward for victims of crime by establishing key protections for survivors of sexual assault in our criminal justice system.

I was proud to work with Senator Shaheen on this legislation when it passed in the Senate earlier this year. Her Sexual Assault Survivors’ Rights Act addresses the unique challenges faced by sexual assault survivors. This bipartisan bill received overwhelming support in the Senate. The House has acted on a companion bill, H.R. 5578, that is nearly identical to what Senator Shaheen championed in the Senate. Today we pass the House measure and ensure that it will become law.

In many jurisdictions across the country, survivors of sexual assault face a labyrinth of complex policies that deter them from pursuing justice. We have seen that even when survivors make the decision to come forward, sometimes evidence is not properly preserved or tested. This is not acceptable. Survivors of sexual assault should never feel abandoned by our criminal justice system.

Senator Shaheen’s Sexual Assault Survivors’ Rights Act treats survivors with the dignity and respect that they deserve. It guarantees basic rights to survivors and serves as a model for reform across our Nation. It strengthens notice requirements to ensure that survivors understand their rights, and know the status of their cases.

Senator Shaheen was an original cosponsor of the Leahy-Crapo Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, which was signed into law in 2013 and significantly increased resources for survivors of sexual assault. We are building on that progress today by passing the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Rights Act, but our work is not done. I urge the House to pass my bipartisan Justice for All Reauthorization Act, which increases protections for victims of crime and provides resources to ensure key evidence is tested. The Senate passed this bill in June by voice vote, and I hope the House will act soon so that it can become law.

Today, I stand with survivors of sexual assault and with Senator Shaheen, whose work to protect the rights of victims is of great importance.

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