Long time coming

Obama signs law guaranteeing survivors of sexual assault basic federal rights

Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire meeting with Amanda Nguyen (Senate office of Jeanne Shaheen).

With a stroke of his pen on Friday, President Obama signed a historic bill into law that will for the first time guarantee federal rights to those who have suffered sexual assaults. The Sexual Assault Survivors’ Rights Act, also known as the Survivors’ Bill of Rights Act of 2016, was introduced in February by U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire. Shaheen had assistance drafting the original language for the bill from Amanda Nguyen, a rape survivor who took her fight to prevent Massachusetts from destroying her rape kit to the upper reaches of U.S. government. The state will dispose of untested rape kits after six months unless the survivors file for an extension, a particularly onerous responsibility to place upon victim of a crime while police search for a culprit. Some minor changes were made to the bill as it won approval in the House and Senate and made its way to the president’s desk. White House aide Valerie Jarrett posted on Twitter to announce the momentous occasion and to congratulate Rise, the advocacy organization run by Nguyen, for its work in bringing the bill to fruition.

Shaheen also hailed Obama’s signing the bill into law. “Beginning today, our nation’s laws stand firmly on the side of survivors of sexual assault,” Shaheen said in a statement. “It was just over a year ago when Amanda Nguyen walked into my office, shared her heartbreaking story, and we began working on legislation. Amidst the partisan bickering and gridlock in Congress, this law demonstrates that citizens can still affect positive change and that bipartisan progress is still possible.”

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