Attorney General Neronha, Legislative and Community Partners Announce Publication of Sexual Assault Victim’s Bill of Rights
PROVIDENCE, RI – Attorney General Peter F. Neronha, Senator Tiara Mack (D-Dist. 6, Providence), Representative John G. Edwards (D-Dist. 70, Tiverton, Portsmouth) in partnership with community advocates, today announced the publication of Rhode Island’s first Sexual Assault Victim's Bill of Rights.
The document, the product of legislation passed by the General Assembly in 2022, sets forth rights held by victims of sexual assault in Rhode Island. The announcement comes during National Crime Victims’ Rights Week (April 23-29, 2023) and Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
The Sexual Assault Victim’s Bill of Rights informs victims of the rights available to all victims of sexual assault in Rhode Island, even if they choose not to participate in the criminal justice system or decide not to obtain a medical examination. The Bill of Rights includes information on rights to obtaining a medical examination and sexual assault evidence kit, consulting with victim advocates, and obtaining information regarding the results of their sexual assault evidence kit, among others.
“My Office prosecutes far too many sexual assault cases – and yet we know sexual assault is chronically underreported for many reasons,” said Attorney General Neronha. “This Bill of Rights is a step in the right direction. With knowledge comes power, and victims deserve to know the rights they have and what services are available to them to help them in the aftermath of such trauma. I want to thank our partners in both government and the community for their help in creating this vital resource so that victims may advocate for themselves and feel supported in doing so.”
The Bill of Rights was created as part of the Sexual Assault Evidence Kits Act (R.I. Gen. Laws § 23-98), passed by Rhode Island Legislature, and signed into law in June 2022. The law, introduced by Majority Floor Manager John G. Edwards (D-Dist. 70, Tiverton, Portsmouth) and Sen. Tiara Mack (D-Dist. 6, Providence), requires any entity that receives, holds, or tests sexual assault evidence kits to report the quantity of untested kits to the Rhode Island Department of Health on an annual basis, as well as establishes testing requirements for newly collected kits.
“Sexual Assault victims shouldn't face barriers to justice,” said Sen. Tiara Mack (D-Dist. 6, Providence). “The Sexual Assault Victim Bill of Rights will lay out the rights of victims as they relate to sexual assault kits and it will also help law enforcement to administer justice more expeditiously for the victims of these terrible crimes. I was proud to sponsor this important bill that created this valuable resource while working with advocates at RISE and the Joyful Heart Foundation, and I am excited to see this important bill lead to more justice for those who have been impacted by crimes of sexual violence. Every survivor of sexual assault deserves to be treated fairly and compassionately as they navigate the difficult path of holding their attackers accountable and the Sexual Assault Victims Bill of Rights will accomplish this and so much more to support and protect the victims and survivors of these assaults.”
“It’s gratifying to see this bill of rights being published, and I’m glad to see this legislation has already had a positive impact,” said Representative John G. Edwards (D-Dist. 70, Tiverton, Portsmouth). “Rape is a horrendous, brutal crime, and victims have to live with it for the rest of their lives. A clear, concise enumeration of victims’ rights will help them to navigate the judicial process and preserve their dignity.”
The Sexual Assault Victim’s Bill of Rights was developed in collaboration with the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence, a leading agency on the issue of domestic violence; Day One, a Rhode Island agency that deals with issues of sexual assault as a community concern; the Rhode Island Department of Health, the Office of the General Treasurer, and the Rhode Island Police Chiefs Association.
“Survivors of sexual assault deserve to know their rights and protections,” said Lucy Rios, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “With the new Sexual Assault Victim’s Bill of Rights, Rhode Island is strengthening the collective response to sexual assault while also centering the survivor in the process. It is critical for survivors to have the knowledge and ability to make informed decisions about their care. This is a step towards empowering survivors who should always have control over who their information is shared with, how to proceed in their medical care, and whether they engage with the legal system. For some survivors, knowing that they have the right to speak with an advocate at any point, and that they are never alone, can be lifesaving.”
“We appreciate the Attorney General’s office for their leadership and partnership with Day One and other agencies in developing the Sexual Assault Victim’s Bill of Rights,” said Peg Langhammer, Executive Director of Day One. “As we close out Sexual Assault Awareness Month, this is a great step in positively impacting how Rhode Island handles sexual assault cases. This bill of rights ensures every survivor is protected equally and that they are made aware of their choices every step of the way. Victims deserve support, resources, and protection while their perpetrators are held accountable. The needs of a survivor should always come first. This law helps victims not be re-traumatized and endure a difficult process to seek justice.”
Today’s announcement precedes the Office of the Attorney General’s annual Crime Victim Rights award ceremony, which in collaboration with other state agencies and community partners, recognizes excellence in victim advocacy. The ceremony will be held on Wednesday, April 26, 2023, at 12:30 p.m. in Providence’s Memorial Park.
More information about the Sexual Assault Victim’s Bill of Rights, including the full text of the bill of rights, can be found at the Attorney General’s website.