CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
On Tuesday, September 6, 2016, the House will consider H.R. 5578, the Survivors’ Bill of Rights Act of 2016, under suspension of the rules. The bill was introduced on June 24, 2016, by Rep. Mimi Walters (R-CA) and was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary, in addition to the Committee on Energy and Commerce. The Committee on the Judiciary ordered the bill reported on July 7, 2016, by voice vote.
H.R. 5578 ensures that sexual assault survivors in federal criminal cases have a right to a sexual assault evidence collection kit, are notified in writing before the kit is destroyed, can request preservation of the kit through the statute of limitations, and are informed of important results from a forensic examination. The legislation allows the Attorney General to make grants, through the Crime Victims Fund, to States for the development and dissemination of applicable rights and policies for sexual assault survivors. In addition, H.R. 5578 also requires the Attorney General and the Department of Health and Human Services to convene a joint working group on best practices regarding the care and treatment of sexual assault survivors and the preservation of forensic evidence.
According to figures from a 2011 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the most recent available, one in five women in America are victims of sexual assault. More than 40% of these victims are children, reporting they were first raped before they were 18 years old. RAINN, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, has stated 68% of rape victims do not report their assault to law enforcement for varying reasons.
Under current state laws, there is a patchwork of policies across the country addressing rights for sexual assault survivors. In addition, some experts estimate there are hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits in police and criminal lab storage facilities throughout the country, with no national data on the nature or scope of the backlog.
According to the bill’s sponsor, “The uneven patchwork of laws across this country and the lack of substantive rights for sexual assault survivors prevents them from having full access to the justice system. This legislation is so important because it ensures those rights in the federal criminal justice system and will set an example for states to adopt similar procedures and practices.”
 See “Congresswoman: Rape victims must finally get equal justice” CNN Opinion, April 29, 2016.
 See http://www.endthebacklog.org/
 See. Rep. Walter’s Press Release, “Walters Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Protect Sexual Assault Victims’ Rights” June 24, 2016.
A Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimate is currently unavailable.
For questions or further information please contact Jake Vreeburg with the House Republican Policy Committee by email or at 5-0190.