New York Becomes Latest State to Enact Comprehensive Rape Kit Reform

For Immediate Release: December 21, 2018
Contact: Melissa Schwartz, media@joyfulheartfoundation.org

NEW YORK -- The Joyful Heart Foundation (Joyful Heart) today praised New York for becoming the third state in the country to enact comprehensive rape kit reform legislation. Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed A8401C into law, which creates a sexual assault survivors’ Bill of Rights. New York has now enacted all six pillars of reform recommended by Joyful Heart and leaders in this field.

“New York has further secured its position as a national leader in the movement to end the backlog of untested rape kits,” said Ilse Knecht, Joyful Heart’s Director of Policy and Advocacy. “This demonstrates the state’s commitment to offering a path to healing and justice for sexual assault survivors and strengthening public safety for its citizens.”

Assemblymember Aravella Simotas and Senator Kemp Hannon introduced A8401C and S8977, directing the Department of Health to publish a sexual assault victims’ Bill of Rights. This Bill of Rights includes the right to: be informed, upon request, of the date and location at which the survivor’s kit was analyzed; be informed whether there was a match in the DNA database; and be notified at least 90 days prior to the expiration of the 20-year storage period and kit destruction. It also gives victims the right to consult with a local rape crisis counselor and be offered contact information for law enforcement. Medical facilities, law enforcement, and prosecutors would be responsible for providing a copy of the bill of rights to every sexual assault survivor before beginning a medical forensic exam or an interview.

With the enactment of A8401C, New York has now passed legislation to: test all new and backlogged sexual assault kits; conduct quarterly audits of kits in law enforcement custody; track all kits; and provide survivors with access to information about the status of their kit. They have also funded these efforts with a state investment, which will be combined with federal grant dollars. Together, these laws will eliminate the backlog of untested kits, prevent future backlogs, support survivors, and help transform law enforcement’s response to sexual assault.

“Joyful Heart is grateful to sponsors Assemblymember Simotas and Senator Hannon for their leadership on this important bill, and to Governor Cuomo for signing this necessary victims’ rights bill into law. Codifying these rights ensures that survivors all throughout our state, from Brooklyn to Buffalo, will have information about the status and location of their rape kit, which our research has shown can be imperative for survivors’ healing,” said Knecht. “We are committed to ongoing collaboration with the Governor, legislature, statewide officials, advocates, and our long-time partners, without whom this effort would not have been possible, to ensure that survivors are given every opportunity for justice.”

Joyful Heart has created the premier national resource about the rape kit backlog, which includes an interactive map and resources for survivors, legislators, and the media. Learn more at: ENDTHEBACKLOG.org.

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The mission of the Joyful Heart Foundation is to transform society’s response to sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse, support survivors’ healing, and end this violence forever. www.joyfulheartfoundation.org

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