On Second Vote, Council passes bill dramatically expanding rights of victims and survivors of sexual violence

Today the Sexual Assault Victims’ Rights Amendment Act of 2019 was passed unanimously by the DC Council, a landmark bill led by Councilmember Charles Allen through the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety.

The bill greatly expands the rights and resources provided to victims and survivors of sexual violence.

“This bill ensures the District is responsive to the needs of victims and survivors of sexual violence. That means ensuring more victims, including young teenagers, have the support of an advocate in the immediate aftermath and if they choose to report,” said Councilmember Allen. “It means a victim can go into any DC hospital and receive trauma-informed support from an advocate. And it means down the road, we’re still working to expand our continuum of care so there’s no ‘wrong door’.”

The legislation:

  • Extends the right to a victim advocate for survivors beginning at the age of 13
  • Guarantees advocacy services at any area hospital, and includes the use of electronic and telephone communications when an in-person advocate may not be practical or at the victim’s request
  • Requires the inclusion of trauma-informed care for sexual assault counselor training
  • Clarifies when MPD must provide updates on sexual assault kit testing and toxicology reports to victims
  • Opens the door for additional organizations working with sexual assault victims to join DC’s Sexual Assault Response Team
  • Lowers barriers for how someone can apply to the Crime Victims Compensation Fund

“Barriers to disclosing sexual violence are many– survivors must wrestle with being disbelieved, resulting trauma from the shame of having been victimized, or confusion surrounding the legal process and more,” said Councilmember Allen. “The bill passed into law today represents a groundbreaking and dramatic expansion of the rights of sexual assault victims.”

A special thanks to the many community groups and victims’ rights organizations who assisted in crafting the bill, including: the D.C. Forensic Nurse Examiners, the Network for Victim Recovery of D.C., Children’s National Hospital, Men Can Stop Rape, the D.C. Rape Crisis Center, the Jewish Coalition Against Domestic Abuse, FAIR Girls, Children’s Law Center, and D.C. Justice for Survivors.

Additional thanks to all our government partners in this effort, including the Office of Victim Services and Justice Grants, the Office of the Attorney General, the Metropolitan Police Department, and the Department of Forensic Sciences.

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