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Sexual Assault Survivor Bill of Rights passes House

March 6, 2019

CHARLESTON — It took three tries over as many years, but the House of Delegates on Monday passed a bill establishing the Sexual Assault Survivors Bill of Rights.

Del. Vernon Criss, R-Wood, successfully moved to amend the bill to name it “Hazel’s Law” after a young sexual assault survivor.

“I would like to amend the bill on behalf of a young lady who is a courageous young lady and a (Baker’s Against Child Abuse) child,” Criss said. “After enduring many horrific years of sexual abuse, including strangulation, guns to the head, knife to the throat and left for dead, this young lady almost committed suicide after enduring 15 years of horrific abuse and checked into a treatment center in Logan, West Virginia. After being released from the center in 2016, she used her voice to be empowered.”

Sponsored by Sen. Mike Woelfel, D-Cabell, for three years now, the bill lays out specific rights afforded to victims of sexual assault as they move through the process of evidence collection. Those rights include:

• The right to a personal representative of the victim’s choice to accompany him or her to a hospital or health care facility and to attend proceedings concerning the alleged assault, including police interviews and court proceedings;

• The right to receive a forensic medical examination;

• The right to have a sexual assault evidence collection kit, often referred to as a rape kit, tested and preserved by law enforcement;

• The right to be informed by the investigating law enforcement agency of any

result of rape kit testing, unless it would impede an investigation;

• The right to be informed in writing of the policies governing rape kit testing and preservation of evidence;

• The right to receive, upon written request, notification of disposal of evidence 60 days prior;

• The right, upon request, to have evidence preserved for an additional period of no more than 10 years; and

• The right to be informed of these rights.

The House judiciary committee amended the bill slightly, clarifying that investigators and other professionals can still make appropriate decisions, specifically regarding children, during police interviews and medical collection of evidence.

The bill will be communicated back to the Senate, which will decide whether it accepts the House changes.

Follow reporter Taylor Stuck on Twitter and Facebook @TaylorStuckHD.