The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Editorial – Assault victims move closer to justice

Earlier this month, President Barack Obama signed into law a Sexual Assault Victims’ Bill of Rights, a series of federal statutes to help ensure those victims get a clear set of basic rights.

Raven Taylor/The Collegian
Raven Taylor/The Collegian

Penned by 25-year-old Harvard graduate and rape survivor Amanda Nguyen, the law ensures a few basic and somewhat no-brainer rights.

As well as granting victims access to the police report on their assault and the right to access their own medical information from the rape kit, this law will help to keep rape kits from being destroyed before the statute of limitations runs out. The law would also require criminal labs that test and analyze rape kits give a 60-day notice to that victim before destroying the kit.

“Society tells survivors to go to the police, go get rape kits,” Nguyen said in an interview with Vice. “When we do, we’re met with something that hurts us even more. The rape wasn’t the worst thing that happened to me. It was being betrayed by the criminal justice system.”

Nguyen is three years removed from her rape, and every six months she had to call the criminal lab in Massachusetts to fight for her rape kit not to be destroyed. And this is because her rape kit hasn’t been processed yet.

Backlogged kits are a common problem across the nation for a myriad of reasons. The sheer volume of rape kits needing testing at crime labs is only one of those reasons.

According to an estimate reported by NPR in January, Texas reported approximately 20,000 backlogged rape kits. The Austin American-Statesman reported in September that Austin is experiencing an estimated 3,000 rape kit backlog. The Austin Police Department chocks that up to a lack of funds.

Then there are victims whose rape kits are destroyed for various reasons. In Salt Lake City, 163 rape kits were destroyed from 2004 to 2012, and only 39 of those were tested, according to a Utah TV station.

The problem with destroying rape kits before they’ve been tested and way before the statute of limitations runs out has a lot to do with the survivors’ comfort levels.

Many don’t feel comfortable enough to go through with pressing charges right away. For some, it takes years before they feel strong enough to take that next step.

In the Utah station’s story, Salt Lake City faced the issue of destroying a rape kit after a couple of years, and when the survivor finally wanted to press charges, there was no rape kit for the prosecution to see.

That’s DNA evidence in a felony case that was thrown away, an offense that would usually cost someone’s job if it were a murder case.

While this law is a firm step in a fight for sexual assault victims’ rights, a lot of work needs to be done. Victims’ rights aren’t always the same from state to state, and the process of learning those rights can be convoluted depending on the state.

People who’ve already gone through a traumatic experience shouldn’t feel like justice is impossible or that society couldn’t care less. It’s wrong to encourage these survivors to come forward when they’ve already been assaulted and then not offer them any reprieve for the horror they’ve been through.

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