Legislation sponsored by Assemblywomen Annette Quijano, Pamela R. Lampitt, Linda Stender and Valerie Vainieri Huttle sponsored to ensure victims of sexual assault aren’t responsible for paying for forensic sexual assault exams was signed into law on Thursday.
“This is simply the right thing to do,” said Quijano (D-Union). “Sexual assault victims have already suffered enough. I see no reason why we should add to that suffering by essentially forcing them to pay for the investigation into their own assault. We must remember that these women are the victims, not the criminals.”
The measure, S-972/A-2597, was approved in June by the Assembly by a vote of 78-0.
“The idea that we would make anyone pay for their own exam following a sexual assault is abhorrent,” said Lampitt (D-Camden). “This law will ensure that never happens and will give common-sense support to victims when they need it the most.”
“With this law, we will ensure victims won’t face the insult of having to pay for their own exams following a sexual assault,” said Stender (D-Union/Middlesex/Somerset). “It’s hard to believe that was ever even a possibility, but this law makes it an impossibility.”
“Women who suffer through the nightmare of a sexual assault shouldn’t have to worry about whether they may also be hurt financially by having to pay the bill to have their assault investigated,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “That is unthinkable, and under this law, it will never happen.”
A 2001 state law established the Statewide Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner program. Under that statute, each county provides forensic sexual assault examinations to sexual assault victims. The examinations are conducted by physicians or certified forensic sexual assault nurse examiners.
The program’s intent is to ensure the needs of sexual assault victims are met in a compassionate manner and that forensic evidence is collected and handled appropriately so that it can be used in prosecutions.
The law approved today will turn the current state statute into a permanent law, specifying that victims are not charged any fee for services that are directly associated with forensic sexual assault examinations, including routine medical screening, medications for prophylaxis of sexually transmitted infections, pregnancy tests, emergency contraception, supplies, equipment and use of space.