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President Obama Signs Historic Bill of Rights For Sexual-Assault Survivors

On Friday, just hours after a video exposed Donald Trump bragging about groping and attempting to have sex with married women, President Obama signed into law a groundbreaking piece of legislation that grants basic rights to survivors of sexual assault –one that protects those who come forward to report and bring their cases to court and amends how rape kits are handled in sexual assault cases.

The Sexual Assault Survivors’ Rights Act, introduced by Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) earlier this year, ensures that survivors of sexual assault in federal criminal cases have the right to undergo such forensic evidence collection without being charged by law enforcement. Survivors can no longer be prevented from getting a rape kit examination, even if they have not yet decided to file a police report. Once the medical examination is completed, the kits must be preserved, until the applicable statute of limitations runs out, at no cost to the survivor.

Survivors will now be able to request that authorities notify them before destroying their rape kits, and they have the right to request that the evidence be preserved. Once the kit is tested, they’ll also have the right to be notified of important results –including a DNA profile match and toxicology report.

Additionally, survivors must also be informed of these rights, regardless of whether they decide to pursue legal action against an assailant. The law also creates a task force to examine how well the new regulations work.

Vice President Joe Biden, who authored the Violence Against Women Act in 1994, has been a vocal champion for the cause and has been a longstanding advocate for the rights of sexual assault survivors.

“Violence against women is not a women’s issue alone,” Vice President Joe Biden said during an appearance at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2015. “It’s a man’s issue as well…So to all of the guys out there –you have to step up. That’s how we can change the culture on campus and around the country to one that understands no means no.”

The act passed unanimously in the House last month and by voice vote in the Senate last week. Obama signed the bill on Friday, two weeks after the White House launched a new effort to combat sexual assault for the youngest survivors –those in K-12 schools.

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