Today, President Obama signed into law the Sexual Assault Survivors Rights Act, establishing a set of guidelines for how the federal government handles forensic evidence gathered after a person reports a sexual assault, otherwise known as a rape kit.
The law mandates that no survivor be monetarily charged for their examination by medical professionals, and that the evidence collected must be preserved until the statute of limitations for the state runs out or 20 years has passed. In addition, a survivor must receive a 60 day notice prior to any evidence being destroyed, and has the ability to request their rape kit be preserved.
The legislation was introduced by Senator Jeanne Shaheen, who crafted the bill along with sexual assault survivor Amanda Nguyen. Amanda pushed for the passing of the legislative protections after she learned that she would have to file an extension request with the state of Massachusetts every six months if she didn’t want her rape kit destroyed.
The bill was unanimously passed by Congress in September.
The new law only applies to federal cases, and a whole host of issues remain effecting survivors of sexual assault in the United States, including a national backlog of an estimated 400,000 untested rape kits.