BREAKING: DC Council Passes Landmark Sexual Assault Reforms With Final Vote

DC Justice for Survivors Campaign (DC JSC)

May 6, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Renee Davidson
DC Justice for Survivors Campaign (DC JSC)
renee@collectiveactiondc.org 

Landmark Legislation to Protect Survivors of Sexual Assault Passes Final Vote
Success Comes After Year of Grassroots Organizing

Washington, D.C. — The DC Justice for Survivors Campaign (DC JSC) is elated that today DC Council cast the final of two votes to pass the Sexual Assault Victims’ Rights Amendment Act of 2014 (SAVRAA), landmark legislation to improve how the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) manages sexual assault cases and treats survivors of sexual assault.

The passage of the Sexual Assault Victims’ Rights Amendment Act comes over a year after the DC JSC, a survivor-led grassroots coalition, was established in response to evidence of police mismanagement of sexual assault cases in the District. The pivotal legislation, called SAVRAA, includes all criteria for which the DC JSC mobilized support, including: 1) Granting sexual assault survivors the right to have a sexual assault victim advocate present during hospital forensic exams and in subsequent in-person police interviews; 2) Mandating the prompt processing of rape kits; 3) Providing sexual assault survivors the right to the results of their rape kits and toxicology tests; 4) Mandating that an independent consultant make semi-annual public reports on progress that MPD makes in implementing reforms; 5) Codifying DC’s Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) and requires it to conduct case review; 6) Requiring an annual report on sexual assault from agencies that handle cases and evidence; 7) Establishing a task force to recommend further reform to the system, including additional roles for advocates, an effective system for complaints and juvenile sexual assault system reforms.

The long-awaited passage of SAVRAA is a monumental step both in supporting survivors of sexual assault and improving DC’s sexual assault response system. “This legislation means that those who report sexual assault in the District can expect that their cases will be followed through as efficiently as possible, and that they will be treated with fairness and respect,” said Sherelle Hessell-Gordon, DC JSC organizer and Executive Director of the DC Rape Crisis Center. “This was a survivor-driven advocacy effort, and we thank the brave men and women who testified and shared their stories in order to achieve today’s success,” added DC JSC organizer Marisa Ferri.

The Sexual Assault Victims’ Rights Amendment Act will now be passed onto the Mayor to be signed into law.

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Formed by Collective Action for Safe Spaces (CASS), the DC Rape Crisis Center (DCRCC) and National Organization for Women, DC Chapter (DC NOW), the DC Justice for Survivors Campaign (DC JSC) is a grassroots coalition of sexual assault survivors, direct service providers, advocacy organizations, allies and community members working to increase and codify the rights of and improve services for survivors of sexual assault in the District of Columbia.

Thank You, CASS Community!

Happy National Volunteer Week!

As you know, CASS is volunteer-run nonprofit. This week, we send an especially HUGE thanks to the DC community members that volunteer their time to make our work possible! This includes the over 400 community members that signed onto join the DC Justice for Survivors Campaign (DC JSC), which yesterday succeeded in helping pass landmark sexual assault reforms in DC.

We’re so proud! Thank you to all the volunteers that support us. We couldn’t do this work without you!

TAKE ACTION: Tell DC Council to Stand With Survivors On Tuesday!

We’re elated to report that – following over a year of hard work by CASS and our coalition partners – the Sexual Assault Victims Rights Amendment Act of 2013 (SAVRAA) is poised for passage by the DC Council this Tuesday, April 8. SAVRAA is critical legislation to protect and ensure the fair and just treatment of those who report sexual assault in the District. Our city needs this legislation urgently.

Unfortunately, the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) is attempting to weaken or delay passage of SAVRAA through behind-the-scenes maneuvering. We need your help to tell DC Council to stand with survivors and not weaken the bill!

TAKE ACTION now:
Sign our letter to DC Council! 

There is power in numbers, and your voice makes a difference. Please sign on to show your support and then tell your friends, families and colleagues to do the same!

Next, join our Thunderclap!

The Thunderclap makes it a one-stop process for you to voice your support and make a difference. Be sure to click “ADD MY SUPPORT” in addition to creating a tweet or Facebook post – we need that in order to have your action count!

Last way you can help? SHARE this page on Facebook, Twitter, email, etc! You can also keep the momentum going by sending our sample tweets now through Tuesday!


ABOUT THE DC JUSTICE FOR SURVIVORS CAMPAIGN
Formed by Collective Action for Safe Spaces (CASS), the DC Rape Crisis Center (DCRCC) and National Organization for Women, DC Chapter (DC NOW), the DC Justice for Survivors Campaign (DC JSC) is a grassroots coalition of sexual assault survivors, direct service providers, advocacy organizations, allies and community members working to increase and codify the rights of and improve services for survivors of sexual assault in the District of Columbia. 

How Survivors of Sexual Assault Are Making Their Voices Heard in DC

Marisa is a founding organizer of the DC Justice for Survivors Campaign (DC JSC), along with staff from CASS, DCRCC and DC NOW. In December, Marisa — who is a survivor of a sexual assault that took place in DC — testified before the DC Council in support of DC JSC’s recommended changes to critical legislation to protect survivors report sexual assault. “I thought my rape was the most traumatic experience of my life,” Marisa said at the public hearing. “But I was wrong. What was more traumatic was the way MPD treated me.”

In an interview with CASS, Marisa explains how her work with DC JSC has been an important tool for healing and why there’s a need for more collective action to ensure the rights of survivors.

Why did you get involved with the DC Justice for Survivors Campaign?
DC is lucky to have a lot of organizations working to make our community safer, but until this campaign was created, there hasn’t been a concrete vehicle for sexual assault survivors to make their collective voices heard. As a survivor-driven advocacy effort, we’re creating a platform for survivors to step into the forefront of change in our community.

How will this legislation — with DC JSC’s recommendations included — make a difference in the lives of DC residents who report sexual assault?
Passing — and more importantly, implementing — legislation that codifies the rights of survivors of sexual assault sends a powerful message to survivors that our community leaders care about their rights and are working to protect them. The most fundamental improvements that need to be made must come from the system actors themselves — police, prosecutors, health care providers and service providing organizations — but my hope is that this legislation spurs these actors into coordinated action. I believe that the community conversation around the need for this legislation has already sent the message that these entities need to self-assess the way that current policies and procedures help or unintentionally harm survivors.

What has it been like to work on this campaign?
Working with DC JSC has been enormously gratifying. For many survivors, our only interaction with the system has been from a position of seeking or receiving services. It has been an important part of my healing process to have an outlet for constructively engaging the system from a position of power and knowing that I bring something important to the table. Survivors have an insight into the way that sexual assault is addressed that is unique, and we can provide a valuable resource for the changemakers in our community that are working to improve the way that it is viewed and handled.

The landmark Sexual Assault Victims’ Rights Amendment Act (SAVRAA) is pending in DC Council, and we need as much support for #survivorrightsDC as possible! Haven’t yet signed on to show your support? Take a second to add your name, and let us know if you’d like to get involved!

TAKE ACTION: Sign On To Support Survivors in DC!

In December, survivors, advocates, and organizations (including many of you!) joined together at a public hearing to tell DC Council, in no uncertain terms, that our community wants justice for sexual assault survivors. The DC Council Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety hearing regarding the Sexual Assault Victims’ Rights Amendment Act (SAVRAA) of 2013 was a resounding success. But there is still more work to be done.

Since the hearing, we’ve heard from even more individuals and organizations wanting to support needed changes to SAVRAA. To accommodate this growing movement, Collective Action for Safe SpacesDC Rape Crisis Center (DCRCC) and National Organization for Women DC Chapter (DC NOW), survivors and community advocates have launched the DC Justice For Survivors Campaign (DC JSC). Through this campaign, we will work to ensure that DC Council passes the strongest bill possible to protect and increase the rights of survivors.

What we’re asking of you:

Add your name to the DC Justice for Survivors Campaign (DC JSC) as a supporter.

You can sign on behalf of an organization or as an individual/community member. Your name, organization (if applicable), and Ward number will be included in this first letter sent on behalf of the DC Justice for Survivors Coalition to the Mayor and all members of DC Council. Be sure to read the letter we’re sending to DC Council, which outlines our support for SAVRAA as well as recommendations to improve the bill, including:

  1. Remove any exception to a survivor’s right to a sexual assault victim advocate;
  2. Establish a comprehensive external sexual assault case review process, and
  3. Require the inclusion of an independent consultant to assist MPD with implementation of reforms. 

Next, get involved in our organizing efforts!

If you want to do more, be sure to select “I want to get more involved” when you sign your name to the letter. Want to take an extra step? Send this page to any friends, neighbors and colleagues you who know might also show their support! We’re especially looking for sign-ons from DC organizations. The more support we have, the stronger the bill we have for survivors.

By signing on, you are supporting the DC Justice for Survivors Campaign’s (JSC) organizing principles, goals, and recommendations for a stronger Sexual Assault Victims’ Rights Amendment Act (SAVRAA). Your signature makes a difference, and by signing on to the DC Justice for Survivors Campaign, you are helping to make history here in the District.

In The News

For more info on the DC Justice for Survivors Campaign, see our press release.

ABOUT THE DC JUSTICE FOR SURVIVORS CAMPAIGN (DC JSC)
The DC Justice for Survivors Campaign (DC JSC) is a grassroots coalition of sexual assault survivors, direct service providers, advocacy organizations, allies and community members working to increase the rights of and improve services for survivors of sexual assault in the District of Columbia. Formed by Collective Action for Safe Spaces, (CASS), the DC Rape Crisis Center and DC NOW, the DC JSC believes that sexual assault survivors must receive fair and compassionate treatment from first responders, service providers and members of law enforcement and the justice system. We believe there should be greater transparency by agencies and organizations that work with survivors of sexual assault to reduce revictimization.

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