May 6, 2014
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Renee Davidson
DC Justice for Survivors Campaign (DC JSC)
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.
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.