Trenton – Legislation establishing a “Sexual Assault Victim’s Bill of Rights” for survivors of sexual violence was signed into law today. Authored by Senate President Steve Sweeney and Senator Linda Greenstein, the new law, S-875, would put in place practices and procedures to provide care and treatment for survivors and ensure their safety in the wake of assaults that can cause physical and emotional trauma.
“Sexual assaults inflict physical and emotional trauma on the survivors that last a lifetime,” said Senator Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland). “They should not be intimidated or ignored by the criminal justice system or by the law enforcement process after being assaulted. The survivors have the right to be treated with respect and dignity by a system that protects their safety and well-being. A ‘Bill of Rights’ will provide the legal and emotional protections they deserve.”
The law codifies rights for medical treatment of the survivor’s choice, including mental health services, and the right to speak privately with a rape care advocate, an attorney, member of the clergy or a family member. They will also be entitled to report the sexual violence, or to refrain from making a formal report to law enforcement authorities or others.
“Recent events have demonstrated how the rich and powerful have taken sexual advantage of vulnerable women and men,” said Senator Greenstein, who chairs the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee. “In too many cases – both in the ones that make the headlines and the ones that don’t – the narrative is the same: survivors have not been taken seriously by law enforcement or by other public agencies that should have been focused first and foremost on the person seeking help. This legislation will put procedures in place that will ensure that their rights are protected and respected.”
The law also requires that these rights be included in the Attorney General’s Standards for Providing Services to Victims of Sexual Assault, posted in emergency rooms, law enforcement agencies, and sexual violence service organizations.
The bill was previously approved by the Senate with a vote of 40-0 and 77-0 by the Assembly.