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Mayor Bowser Highlights Legislation to Expand the Rights of Sexual Assault Victims

Thursday, April 13, 2017

(Washington, DC) – Today, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced that she has introduced legislation that provides critical treatment, support, and legal assistance for victims of sexual assault. The Sexual Assault Victims’ Rights Amendment Act of 2017 (SAVRAA) amends the Sexual Assault Victims’ Rights Act of 2014 to better respond to the complex needs of victims of sexual violence. Mayor Bowser was joined at the announcement by Office of Victim Services and Justice Grants Director Michelle Garcia and Acting Chief of Police Peter Newsham.

“Ensuring the safety of every Washingtonian has been my Administration’s top priority since day one, and this legislation will help us do more to provide critical support for the victims of sexual assault,” said Mayor Bowser. “Through this legislation, we can ensure that every victim of sexual assault - no matter their background - is treated with fairness and dignity.”

Introduced during Sexual Assault Awareness Month, the legislation:

  • expands the right of sexual assault victims to a sexual assault victim advocate;
  • clarifies the duties of the Sexual Assault Response Team;
  • clarifies the rights of victims when being provided emergency care;
  • requires prosecutors to provide a reason to a victim on their decision not to prosecute;
  • creates a new prohibition on the removal of a person’s clothing without consent; and
  • clarifies the right of a victim to compensation under existing insurance policies.

The bill also expands the definition of a sexual assault victim to include any victim who is at least 12 years old. This clarification will ensure that adolescent victims of sexual assault are provided the same rights as adult victims of sexual assault.

“This legislation, building on the recommendations of the Sexual Assault Victims Rights Act of 2014 Task Force, addresses the critical needs of sexual assault victims/survivors in our community and provides the support and care that all victims of sexual assault deserve,” said Office of Victim Services and Justice Grants Director Garcia.

In addition, the new legislation will expand the pool of advocates available and ensure that every victim who wants an advocate is able to access one.

The Sexual Assault Victims’ Rights Act of 2014 provides specific rights for survivors of sexual assault, victim-centered guidance, and regulations for the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and other system actors, and defines a clear continuum of services for survivors of sexual assault. The legislation also required the creation of a SAVRAA Task Force to study nationally recognized best practices and develop recommendations to further enhance DC’s response to sexual assault. The Sexual Assault Victims’ Rights Amendment Act of 2017 is based primarily on recommendations from the Task Force as well as independent consultants.

“MPD appreciates the essential work that dedicated advocates do to support survivors in our community. Advocates can be a vital bridge to concrete resources and critical services that support the health and well-being of survivors,” said Acting Chief Newsham. “Anyone in the District of Columbia should feel confident that if they experience a sexual assault, they will be treated with compassion and respect when they come to MPD for help, and MPD will support them as their case proceeds through the criminal justice system.”