House Adopts Connolly Amendment to VAWA Reauthorization Act
Amendment provides survivors the right to track status and location of evidence collection kits
Today, the House adopted an amendment offered by Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) to the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2021. The amendment would strengthen the 2016 Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights by providing survivors the right to be informed of the status and location of sexual assault evidence collection kits. Survivors are empowered by greater transparency into how their kits are handled and tracked by hospitals, forensic professionals, and law enforcement.
H.R. 1620, Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2021
Rep. Gerald E. Connolly
I rise to offer an amendment to the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2021.
My amendment would strengthen the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights by providing survivors’ the right to be informed of the status and location of their sexual assault evidence collection kit.
The Survivor’s Bill of Rights was enacted in 2016 and provides fundamental protections to survivors, including:
These are important protections that can be funded through federal grants made available through the Victims of Crime Act.
This amendment would add one additional and critical protection to that bill of rights.
It would entitle survivors to know the status and location of their kits, providing greater transparency to how kits are handled and tracked by hospitals, forensic professionals, and law enforcement.
My home state of Virginia launched just such a tracking program in 2019.
In Virginia, each kit has a unique bar code and each survivor is provided with a PIN that allows them to track the status of their kit online.
Privacy concerns are allayed by the fact that no personally identifying information is included in the tracking system, and it is entirely up to the survivor whether or not they want to report their assault to law enforcement.
This is a transformative transparency regime for a process that has far too long been kept in the shadows, which has given rise to backlogs and anxiety among survivors about the status of their kits and whether they are being used to hold their attackers accountable.
The amendment is about empowering survivors, and I urge its adoption.
I yield back.