U.S. House votes to give rights to sexual assault survivors - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

U.S. House votes to give rights to sexual assault survivors

The U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation outlining a bill of rights for survivors of sexual assault. (Source: WMBF News) The U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation outlining a bill of rights for survivors of sexual assault. (Source: WMBF News)
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MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Advocates for survivors for sexual assault victims count a step forward after the House of Representatives unanimously approved legislation outlining a federal bill of rights for survivors of sexual assault.

According to the Associated Press, the bill ensures survivors in federal criminal cases have a right to a sexual assault evidence collection kit to be told of the results and to be notified in writing before the kit is destroyed.

Victim advocates in Myrtle Beach said few aspects of the new legislation would affect cases in South Carolina, but the impact in other states was big.

"Because sexual assault has been quiet for so long, and nobody ever talks about it so nothing ever changes," said Ashley Hoshihara, sexual assault services coordinator at the Rape Crisis Center. "These are things that are working towards a positive change."

Cruz said victims can already be informed of the results in South Carolina. They just have to submit a written request.

Another addendum in the bill says every victim will be given a free rape kit, which is also already a law in South Carolina.

"So that's not a change for us, but it could be somewhere else," Cruz said. "So since this is a national legislation, we're not going to feel it as much. But it is a big deal out there."

Lawmakers said they are troubled by the number of untested rape kits that remain in the country, despite efforts to reduce a national backlog.

Rep. Mimi Walters, R-Calif., one of the bill's sponsors, said she hopes it can serve as a model for states, which she said now have an uneven patchwork of laws across the country.

That patchwork all-too-often "prevents sexual assault survivors from having full access to the justice system," Walters said.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va.., said the bill would give sexual assault survivors additional rights in seeking justice and help them recover from trauma.

The bill heads to the Senate, where similar legislation was approved this spring.

Former Stanford swimmer Brock Turner registered as a sex offender Tuesday in Ohio, where he's living with his parents.

Turner was convicted of assaulting a woman last year near a trash bin after they drank heavily at a fraternity party. The woman passed out and Turner was on top of her when confronted by two graduate students passing by on bicycles.

The case exploded on social media and ignited a debate about campus rape and the criminal justice system after a letter the accuser read at Turner's sentencing was published online.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Copyright 2016 WMBF News. All rights reserved.

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