This month, I voted in support of a package of legislation to protect victims of sexual assault. Despite significant progress in strengthening Vermont’s laws against sexual assault, too many victims of sexual violence are not ensured access to justice, health care, and social services.
The package of legislation reinforces the State’s sexual assault laws by setting forth procedures and notification requirements related to medical forensic examinations of sexual assault victims. Each year, Vermont’s certified Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners perform approximately 250 sexual assault forensic exams. The forensic exam kits are, in turn, analyzed by the Vermont Forensic Laboratory. Currently, Vermont law enforcement officers have been trained to deliver all kits to the crime lab within 72 hours. However there are discrepancies across jurisdictions. To date, there are between 50 and 75 kits which have been completed in Vermont hospitals but have not found their way to the forensic lab. This bill will guarantee that such discrepancies are less likely to occur and survivors will be assured that their kits are promptly handled.
The legislation also ensures victims know their rights and the resources available to them by receiving a copy of these rights and resources in writing. Most importantly, it ensures that victims will receive a medical forensic examination, including any related toxicology testing, at no cost, regardless of where the crime occurred and whether they have health insurance. Special thank you to Burlington Rep Barbara Rachelson who did a great job reporting part of the package in the House Chamber. The legislation now moves to the Senate for consideration.