Multiple bills passed in Texas strengthen rights for survivors of sexual assault

Published 1:18 pm Tuesday, June 22, 2021

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To The Leader

NEW YORK — Today, the Joyful Heart Foundation, a national organization working to end the backlog of untested rape kits nationwide, celebrates the signing of HB2706, HB2462, HB1172, HB3607, and SB476 this legislative session. These bills add teeth to Texas’ existing rape kit reform laws and vastly increase survivors’ rights throughout the state. We applaud Representative Neave and Representative Howard for continuing to champion laws enhancing the state’s response to survivors.

“Behind every kit is a person—a sexual assault survivor—waiting for justice,” says Ilse Knecht, Directory of Policy and Advocacy at the Joyful Heart Foundation. “We stand with every survivor who has taken the step of reporting the crime to the police and endured an invasive examination in search of DNA evidence left behind by the attacker. Swift aquisition of these kits as well as giving survivors access to information about their kits can help counter the loss of self-determination and control that is often at the core of a sexual assault experience.”

More information on bills:

  • HB2706 strengthens the rape kit handling process by by extending the time frame for kits to be collected to 120 hours instead of 96 hours under previous law.
  • HB2462 ensures that law enforcement professionals can not decline a forensic medical exam for a survivor; kits of deceased victims are entered into the tracking system; annual reports from the tracking system are accessible on the public safety department’s website.
  • HB1172 grants victims the right to an advocate during an interview with law enforcement.
  • HB3607 extends victims’ rights by ensuring that kits are destroyed only after written instructions are given to the victim about making a written objection to the destruction, and the victim does not object for 90 days.
  • SB476 establishes county sexual assault response teams (SART) that meet quarterly and review and amend as necessary any protocols, forms, or guidelines to ensure a coordinated response for adult sexual assault survivors.
  • SB1 allocates more than $73 million over 2022-2023 to test rape kits, provide civil legal assistance to victims, fund SAFE facilities and enhance crime lab capacity.

Currently, Texas is one of the few states that have fulfilled all Joyful Heart’s six pillars.  These new laws provide even greater support to survivors, increase their options’s, and increase transparency and accountability around the rape kit process, fund these reforms, and more.