Assemblymember Aravella Simotas urged passage of her legislation ensuring sexual assault survivors greater opportunity to seek justice and expanding their rights. Her bill (A8401A) would prevent the premature destruction of rape kits and create a sexual assault survivors bill of rights. On February 13, Simotas joined a bi-partisan Albany news conference to promote the bill with Senator Kemp Hannon (R, C, I-Nassau) who is the sponsor of the same bill in the state Senate (S6428A), Assemblymember Richard Gottfried, who chairs the Health Committee where the Simotas bill is currently under consideration and sexual assault survivors and victim advocates.
Assemblymember Aravella Simotas said, “Mandating the quick processing of rape kits, which we did in 2016, was the first step and ensuring that untested rape kits are not destroyed is the necessary second step. Victims must also be informed of their rights and they must have access to information about the status of evidence analysis. This is common decency and common sense.”
Currently if a victim chooses not to make a police report, the hospital that collects the rape kit is only required to retain the evidence for 30 days before it can be discarded. This is often not enough time for a traumatized victim to make a decision about moving forward with a criminal complaint. The legislation requires that such “unreported” rape kits be retained for at least 20 years at a centralized, secure storage facility.
The Simotas bill establishes a sexual assault survivorbill of rights to ensure that victims are informed of their rights under the New York State law, including:
• The right to consult with a rape crisis or victim assistance organization.
• The right to appropriate health care services including the forensic examination, HIV post-exposure therapies, and emergency contraception at no cost.
• The right to receive updates on their sexual offense evidence kit and any changes in the status of their case.
Simotas said, “Compassion must always be paramount in the law enforcement response to sexual assault victims. It’s the right thing to do and it will help lock up dangerous criminals.”
Senator Kemp Hannon, New York State Senate Health Committee Chairman said, “This legislation, aimed at helping survivors of sexual assault, builds upon new laws the Senate championed over the last few years to make sure New York State is testing all rape kits and providing funding. Making sure survivors rights are clearly spelled out and unreported kits are preserved until the person who has been attacked is able to face going forward are an important reform that New York must make. Doing what we can to strengthen the rights of sexual assault survivors and help them feel safe once again is essential.”
Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried said, “Victims of sexual assault, dealing with the trauma of a violent crime, should never face the additional burden of a hospital billing for forensic exams. Some hospitals have been billing victims despite Federal law designed to prevent this. Our legislation will ensure that no victim will be burdened by a hospital bill for a rape kit.”
Amanda Nguyen, CEO and Founder of Rise, said, “Currently in New York State, rape kits can be destroyed after 30 days. The DNA evidence in a rape kit is both crucial for survivors seeking justice and exonerating the innocent. We are hopeful the state of New York will pass this legation to meet the federal standard – ensuring rape kits will be preserved for 20 years for the 6.6 million survivors in New York.”