Bipartisan Criminal Justice Reform Changes Include Positive Advancement For Victims of Sexual Violence
April 13, 2018
Sexual assault effects thousands of people each year in Massachusetts, so it is fitting that it be addressed within the landmark bipartisan criminal justice reform bill being signed into law today. Jane Doe Inc. also supports the overall goal of “An Act Relative to Criminal Justice Reform” to address injustices and create a more equitable system of criminal justice in the Commonwealth.
The law establishes a statewide sexual assault evidence kit tracking system, through the advisement of a multidisciplinary task force which and establishes timelines within which evidence will be moved through systems and processed in a timely way. While most perpetrators of sexual violence are known to the victim, the forensic evidence collected through a sexual assault evidence kit contributes significantly to the successful prosecution of sexual assault cases. Prosecutors across the Commonwealth report that SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) participation through expert evidence collection followed by trial preparation and court testimony has significantly increased the rate of guilty pleas and guilty verdicts.
The law will also require an accounting of the current number of kits across the Commonwealth and that all untested kits associated with a reported crime be submitted for testing within 180 days. This information is critical for understanding the landscape of currently untested kits. Annual reporting of this information will provide much needed data regarding sexual assault and inform our understanding prevalence, trends, and needs.
Perhaps most critically, the law ensures the ability for victims to have access to information related to information related to their individual cases and provides a right for victims consult with a sexual assault advocate. Rape Crisis Centers across the Commonwealth support victims every day in the context of medical advocacy after assaults and struggle to be able to meet this demand. We urge the Legislature and Governor to match this commitment to the policy reforms with adequate funding for both the network of Rape Crisis Centers, as well as the SANE program and children’s advocacy centers across the Commonwealth so that they may adequately meet this need.
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