Congress passes the Survivors’ Bill of Rights Act to preserve rape kits in federal cases

Every now and then, Congress actually does something useful. On Tuesday, the House unanimously passed a sexual assault law seeking to protect rape kits and survivors’ right to them. The Survivors’ Bill of Rights will guarantee victims in federal cases have access to rape kits, those rape kits are preserved throughout the statute of limitations, victims will be informed of the test results, and they won’t have to pay to have their kit tested. A similar bill was passed unanimously by the Senate in May, so now small revisions will be made to combine the two bills and then it will head to President Obama’s desk to be signed.

California Representatives Mimi Walters and Zoe Lofgren introduced the bill in the House in the hopes that federal guidelines will encourage states to pass similar laws. Republican Representative Walters said on the House floor, according to The Hill, “The uneven patchwork of laws across the country and the lack of substantive rights for sexual assault survivors prevent them from having full access to the justice system.” She continued, “Survivors of sexual assault have faced unspeakable trauma, and they should not face unnecessary barriers to justice.”

Amanda Nguyen, a rape survivor and founder of the civil rights nonprofit Rise who worked closely with politicians on both bills, was ecstatic the House bill passed, tweeting: “IT PASSED IT PASSED.”

Nguyen told People magazine in August, “I can’t wait for the day I can write to the forensic lab and say, ‘This is the law,’ and I will no longer need to do this. You can’t destroy my rape kit anymore – you can’t destroy anybody’s.”