Murray, Murkowski, Jayapal Announce Bipartisan, Bicameral Reintroduction of Legislation to Bolster Critical Care for Survivors of Sexual Assault

Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), member of the HELP Committee, and Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (D-WA7), announced a bipartisan, bicameral reintroduction of the Survivors’ Access to Supportive Care Act (SASCA), legislation that would provide guidance and support to states and hospitals providing sexual assault examination services and treatment to survivors. Senator Murray, Senator Murkowski, and Congresswoman Jayapal made the announcement on a press call featuring Ebony Tucker, Advocacy Director at National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, Roald Helgesen CEO and Administrator of Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, and Leah Griffin, a survivor of sexual assault who has been a leading advocate for the legislation.

Senators Murray and Murkowski reintroduced the legislation in the Senate and Congresswoman Jayapal and Congressman Peter King (R-NY2) introduced a bipartisan version in the House as well.

“It is absolutely unacceptable that someone would go to seek care—and justice—for sexual assault and be told ‘not here’ or ‘try next door.’ The Survivors’ Access to Supportive Care Act, will help us make sure that no longer happens to survivors across the country seeking help. SASCA takes important steps to make sure we treat sexual assault examinations as a health care priority—not an afterthought or an inconvenience. It does this through support and guidance to hospitals and states to help make sure they are able to provide sexual assault examination services and treatment to survivors—something we know that too many locations are currently unequipped or unprepared for,” said Senator Murray. “I’m hopeful that together, with Leah and other advocates, we can continue to build bipartisan momentum for this legislation and getting it signed into law.”

“In Alaska we unfortunately have some of the highest assault rates in the country. American Indians and Alaska Natives are nearly twice as likely to experience sexual assault than other Americans. More often than not sexual assault survivors are not able to achieve any level of justice against their perpetrator, because they are unable to gather the evidence after the assault due to lack of trained individuals to help collect that forensic evidence. This is unacceptable. Every victim must have access to care, and be given the opportunity to compile a case against their attacker,” said Senator Lisa Murkowski. “After working closely with stakeholders in Alaska, I’m pleased to have helped Senator Murray craft the Survivors’ Access to Supportive Care Act. This legislation will help expand our network of forensic examiner providers across the state and nation, including rural Alaska. I remain committed to ensuring the proper training and resources are available for victims of sexual assault to seek redress and receive the justice that they need and deserve.”

“The reality is, if you have people living in your district, SASCA has great impact for you. One out of every six American women and millions of American men have been victims of completed or attempted rape in their lifetimes, and a large majority of U.S. emergency rooms do not have Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners—SANEs—to collect evidence,’ said Congresswoman Jayapal. “By passing SASCA, we would strengthen the sexual assault examiner workforce in every state, create national standards of care, and grow access to sexual assault training and care nationwide. When you go to a hospital—for any reason—you expect to receive helpful, quality care. There shouldn’t be a lower standard for those who experience the trauma of rape or sexual assault.”

“After my rape, I was turned away from a hospital that did not provide rape kits. I eventually found a hospital that did, but that delay in care contributed to the prosecutor’s decision to decline charges in my case. We have a justice system that demands empirical evident to prosecute rape, but denies victims access to evidence collection,” said Leah Griffin.

“We need to do a better job in the U.S. of providing survivors of sexual assault access to necessary forensic nursing services,” said Susan Chasson, President of the International Association of Forensic Nurses, in a statement. “With the well-documented health consequences resulting from sexual violence, the IAFN strongly supports this legislation as it draws much needed attention to the health system response to sexual assault survivors. This legislation will assist states and health systems to be better prepared to care for survivors of assault.”

SASCA would direct the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to establish a national training and continuing education pilot program to expand access to health care for survivors of sexual assault by developing federal standards around examinations and treatment. It would also establish a pilot grant program to expand medical forensic exam training and services to new providers to increase access, and create a national sexual assault taskforce to better understand sexual assault healthcare services and treatment and address survivors’ needs. To address the current lack of data on the availability of sexual assault nurse examinations (SANE) and sexual assault forensic examinations (SAFE), SASCA would provide for state-level review of current practices to better understand deficits in care, develop best practices, and improve public awareness of forensic examinations. SASCA would also require hospitals to report on SAFE/SANE training and access to these vital examinations.

Click HERE for text of S. 3203 (SASCA).

Click HERE for fact sheet.


Related Issues: Health, Alaska Natives & Rural Alaska