By Leah Griffin
Rape is not like any other crime. Rape victims are often blamed for their own victimization. As such, rape is underreported and underinvestigated. Prosecutors can be reticent to charge rapists, and even convicted rapists do not always see justice. In some states, survivors are required to pay for their own evidence collection. Survivors are not informed about the results of their rape kits.
Washington State is leading the nation in rights afforded to survivors of sexual assault. In 2015, Representative Tina Orwall (D) sponsored House Bill 1068 which mandated the testing of 6000 backlogged rape kits in Washington State. The bill also created the Sexual Assault Forensic Examination (SAFE) Task Force to address other issues concerning the investigation of rape, and treatment of survivors. The Task Force is a bipartisan group of legislators, survivors, and other stakeholders who have been diligently examining procedures, and crafting recommendations for legislation. On February 2nd, 2017, bipartisan lawmakers submitted SB 5686, which is Washington’s version the Sexual Assault Survivor’s Bill of Rights. The bill will guarantee survivors the right to a legal advocate, the right to be interviewed by someone of the same gender, the right to be informed about the results of forensic evidence, and the right to be free from intimidation, harassment, and abuse. It is sponsored by Senator Ann Rivers (R ), a SAFE Task Force member who is committed to improving the system that fails so many sexual assault survivors around the country.
We believe that a Survivor’s Bill of Rights can be passed in all fifty states. To be raped in the United States is to be violated, and then re-traumatized, ignored, blamed, and ridiculed by society, and then re-traumatized, ignored, blamed, and ridiculed by the very system meant to provide justice. This is a system that will not improve on its own. Change requires the efforts of committed Members of Congress like Rep Orwall and Sen Rivers, and of individuals, like you, who are willing to speak up and take action. To abolish the systematic mistreatment of rape survivors in this country will require a fierce and determined movement.
Here is how you can help:
If you live elsewhere, and would like to help RISE promote similar legislation in your state, you can complete the RISE intake form here. Join the movement, and #riseup.