SACRAMENTO–California State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D-San Diego) today won unanimous approval of the Assembly Public Safety Committee for her Assembly Bill 1312, the Sexual Assault Survivors Bill of Rights.
The proposed law will require hospital and law enforcement personnel to provide information to sexual assault victims outlining their rights prior to being examined or interviewed. AB 1312 will also require police departments to retain rape test kits for 20 years.
“California needs to do a better job of helping sexual assault victims navigate all of the legal, medical and personal issues that survivors have to deal with, and it starts with a Sexual Assault Victims bill of rights that ensures each survivor is informed about their rights and the resources that are available to them before they are examined,” Assemblywoman Gonzalez Fletcher said. “Victims have rights, and this new law will strengthen those rights to include emergency contraception for women and a ban on police departments prematurely destroying rape test kits.”
“Our first course of action as an organization was to pass the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights on the federal level so we could provide a model that other states could adopt. Our theory of change is that hope is contagious – and we have already seen so many states commit to joining this movement and introduce their own Survivors’ Bill of Rights,” said Amanda Nguyen, California native, founder and president of Rise.
According to data released by the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault, there are an estimated two million female rape survivors living in California. An estimated 5.6 million more California women have been the victims of other sexual violence, and it is estimated that 74 percent of rapes and sexual assaults go unreported. Numerous deficiencies in California state law may exacerbate the lack of reporting.
The Sexual Assault Victims Bill of Rights fixes those deficiencies. The bill will require every victim of sexual assault be given a simple card outlining his or her rights as a survivor. It also requires police agencies to test rape kits and to keep unprocessed rape kits for 20 years.
The legislation will grant survivors of sexual assault the right to request to a person of a certain gender be present during interviews; establish the victim’s right to a free copy of law enforcement reports on the sexual assault; establish the right of a victim to free contraception and, when available, a shower after the medical exam; and establish the right of a victim to a separate waiting room during criminal proceedings from the defendant and district attorney’s office. These changes will remove many of the barriers that keep victims of sexual assault from coming forward, reporting their trauma and receiving treatment.
AB 1312, the Sexual Assault Victims Bill of Rights, was approved by the Public Safety Committee on a unanimous and bipartisan 6-0 vote. During the same hearing, the Committee also voted unanimously to approve Assemblywoman Gonzalez Fletcher’s AB 900, which makes victims of human trafficking eligible for restitution for their lost income from the state Victims Compensation Fund.