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Jayapal, Murray, Murkowski Push to Help Survivors Get Critical Sexual Assault Examinations Passes as Part of VAWA

Provisions of the Survivors’ Access to Supportive Care Act will help develop national standards of care for survivors of sexual assault, strengthens the sexual assault examiner workforce, and expands access to sexual assault examination services

WASHINGTON – Today, as part of the omnibus package, Congress passed key provisions of the Survivors’ Access to Supportive Care Act (SASCA), as part of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). When Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-WA-07), Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) re-introduced SASCA, Sen. Murray noted at a press conference, “I just feel like this is our year. This is a bipartisan issue, and we’re going to pursue every avenue to get it done.” Less than a year later, the members succeeded in their efforts to help survivors of sexual assault get the care they need. 

For survivors of sexual assault who decide to disclose their assault, accessing medical exams like the sexual assault nurse examinations (SANE) or sexual assault forensic examinations (SAFE) is a crucial part of how they can seek justice. But hospitals often don’t have the resources or the appropriately trained staff to administer these vital exams and survivors often face steep and difficult challenges in getting the care and exams they need to hold perpetrators accountable. Senator Murray first introduced SASCA in 2016, after a Washington state constituent, Leah Griffin, shared her personal story of surviving a sexual assault and then getting turned away from a hospital when it was unable to administer a rape kit—ultimately contributing to prosecutors declining to file criminal charges. 

The bipartisan provisions from SASCA included in the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), will help develop national standards of care for survivors of sexual assault, strengthen the sexual assault examiner workforce, and expand access to sexual assault examination services.

“Survivors of sexual assault deserve to be believed. They deserve care, and they deserve justice. I am thrilled that Congress has guaranteed these protections for millions of survivors,” said Congresswoman Jayapal. “I’m proud to have worked with Senators Murray and Murkowski to pass this important legislation. This moment is for Leah and every single survivor out there. We are with you.”

“When Leah bravely shared her story with me back in 2014, I was furious that she and too many other survivors were getting turned away from a hospital after a sexual assault and being told ‘not here’ or ‘try somewhere else,’ when they tried to get care,” said Senator Murray. “Since then, we’ve been working the phones, building support, and reaching across the aisle to make progress on this. I have never given up—because survivors like Leah deserve to be heard, to heal, and to get the care they need to seek justice. Today is a huge, hard-fought victory for survivors, and I’m so grateful to Leah’s incredible courage and leadership, and for the support of Representative Jayapal and Senator Murkowski.”

“For victims, the trauma from sexual assault is violent enough. Unfortunately, for far too many woman, seeking healthcare after a sexual assault can lead to being re-traumatized. In Alaska, more than 80 percent of our communities are not connected to a road system, and so many victims of sexual assault do not have immediate access to the care they need. That’s why I’ve worked tirelessly with Senator Murray on the Survivors’ Access to Supportive Care Act (SASCA). As a lead author of the bipartisan VAWA reauthorization included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2022, I was proud to include SASCA in the compromise text and get it over the finish line. Our legislation ensures that all victims of sexual assault, no matter where they live, will have the tools they need to seek justice and ultimately heal. Every victim should have a path forward to do just that,” said Senator Murkowski.

“When I was denied access to a sexual assault exam at a hospital in 2014, Senator Murray heard my story, and committed to helping. I am so proud of what this bill accomplishes for survivors, and I am so grateful to Senators Murray and Murkowski and Rep Jayapal for persisting. No survivor should be turned away when seeking care,” said Leah Griffin.

The provision included in VAWA, first proposed as part of SASCA, will close these gaps in survivors’ care by doing the following:

  • Strengthen the sexual assault examiner workforce by evaluating state-level needs. The bill authorizes state-level surveys to better understand barriers the availability of sexual assault examiners, the costs of training, and the spectrum of state-training requirements and standard. 
  • Develop and test national standards of care for survivors of sexual assault. Currently, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) does not oversee any national standard or certification protocol for sexual assault examiners. The bill directs HHS to establish a pilot training and continuing education program, to be tested and incorporated by health care providers nationwide.
  • Expand access to SAFE/SANE services. The bill calls for Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and states to establish and keep updated online maps of where survivors can access SAFE/SANE Services.