Today, I am reintroducing the Survivors’ Bill of Rights in the States Act of 2021. This measure, which Senator Shaheen has joined me in sponsoring, builds on an initiative on which the two of us worked together in 2016.
Entitled the Survivors Bill of Rights Act, that earlier legislation cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee in June 2016, during my tenure as its chairman. The House of Representatives introduced a similar package of rights some months later and that version was enacted in the fall of 2016, with my strong support.
The 2016 statute provides very important rights for victims of sexual violence, but only in federal cases. Such rights include, for example, the right to know the results of your forensic exam, the right to have evidence preserved for a certain period, and the right to notice before your forensic kit is destroyed.
A young sexual assault survivor, Amanda Nguyen, who advocated for these rights at the federal level, now is leading the effort to persuade other jurisdictions to adopt the same rights for all sexual assault victims. One of those jurisdictions is my home state of Iowa, which this summer adopted a package of rights that’s closely modeled on the federal Survivors Bill of Rights.
I want to take the opportunity to again thank Amanda, who arrived in my office six years ago and convinced me of the importance of working with her on this important initiative. Amanda also later testified before the Judiciary Committee on two occasions, at my invitation, about the importance of protecting the rights of victims of sexual violence in the criminal justice system.
Amanda worked with Senator Shaheen on this same legislation as well, and I am pleased to partner with Senator Shaheen again in introducing today’s measure. The bill we have sponsored gives each state a financial incentive to adopt new rights for survivors in all sex crime cases, modeled on the same rights that victims in federal cases now enjoy.
Each state that extends these same rights to survivors of sexual violence would be eligible to receive a federal grant, under the legislation that we’ve introduced today. The amount of each state grant would be calculated based on the formula that is used to calculate STOP grant funding to states under a program that’s authorized by the Violence Against Women Act.
Finally, the measure we have introduced today would authorize $20 million annually for each of the next five fiscal years to support the implementation of the new grant program established by our bill.
I again thank Senator Shaheen for joining me in leading this legislation and for her commitment to working to increase protections for victims of sexual violence. I also want to thank the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence for working with me on the bill’s development.
Finally, I thank Congresswomen Jackie Speier and Kelly Armstrong for initiating this measure in the other chamber today. I urge my colleagues to join us in cosponsoring this bipartisan, bicameral legislation.