LEGISLATIVE NEWS: House passes Orwall’s “Bill of Rights” for survivors of sexual assault

OLYMPIA—Today the Washington House of Representatives unanimously passed HB 1109 to increase support for victims of sexual assault.

“We’ve been doing truly important work over the past few years, from ensuring every kit is tested and setting up a tracking system, to investing in a state lab and securing funds to support investigations and, when possible, prosecutions,” said prime sponsor Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines. “Now it’s time to empower survivors with a Bill of Rights to bring more transparency and information on their cases.”

Watch Rep. Orwall’s Floor remarks:

Orwall from the Floor Cover

This legislation includes:

  • For any previously unsubmitted sexual assault test kits collected before July 24, 2015 where forensic analysis has resulted in a Combined DNA Indexing System (CODIS) hit, the applicable law enforcement agency and prosecuting attorney must, upon request of the Attorney General’s Office, report changes in case status as to any related investigation and prosecution to the AG’s office.
  • Modifies the Case Review Program proposal to be an annual ongoing program conducted by the Criminal Justice Training Commission (CJTC). The program must review case files from law enforcement agencies and prosecuting attorneys selected by the CJTC. In addition to current requirements the program must include an analysis of the impact that race and ethnicity have on sexual assault case outcomes.
  • Establishes requirements for the CJTC to access case files from selected agencies and provides the agencies that do not participate in currently requirement training for sexual assault investigations may be prioritized for selection in the case review program.
  • Expands the statutory rights afforded to survivors by adding several new provisions including:
    • The right to receive written notice of benefits under the Crime Victim Compensation Program,
    • The right to receive a referral to an accredited community sexual assault program, and in the case of a survivor who is a minor, a referral to a children’s advocacy center
    • The right to be informed as to the expected and appropriate time frames for receiving responses to the survivor’s inquiries regarding the status of the investigation and any related prosecution of the survivor’s case, and to further receive responses to the survivor’s inquiries in a manner consistent with those time frames.

Rep. Orwall underlined her commitment to expanding survivor’s rights, saying, “We are going to make sure survivors have written notices when they are in emergency rooms or receiving sexual assault exams that it is at no cost, and that there may be other services, such as counseling, that would be covered.”

This bill is a continuation of efforts in Washington state to test and process all outstanding sexual assault test kits, which began in 2015. The addition of requirements to report changes upon request to the Attorney General’s Office increases the office’s ability to evaluate and address systematic gaps that are still occurring. The full scope of this piece of legislation represents a concerted effort to pursue justice for survivors and correct any previous failings within the current system.

“This Bill of Rights would not have come to fruition without the many hours of work alongside Rep. Gina Mosbrucker, the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center, the Sexual Assault Forensic Examination Best Practices Advisory Group, the support of the Attorney General’s office and, most of all, the voices of survivors. This legislation keeps Washington as the leader in protections for sexual assault survivors,” added Orwall.

The bill now goes to the state Senate for consideration.