Schaer, Lampitt & Danielsen Bill Establishing Right to a Rape Care Advocate for Victims of Sexual Assault Advances

An Assembly panel on Monday approved legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Gary Schaer, Pamela Lampitt and Joe Danielsen establishing protocol for law enforcement and medical providers to follow to aid victims of sexual assault.

“This is a delicate and overwhelming situation that no victim of sexual assault should have to go through alone,” said Schaer (D-Bergen/Passaic). “The type of support established under this bill can be crucial to the overall emotional well-being of the victim as well as to the successful outcome of any potential prosecution.”

Under the provisions of the bill (A-2961), whenever there is an alleged sexual assault, the first responding law enforcement officer would immediately notify a local designated rape crisis center, defined as a countywide organization, under contract with the Division on Women in the Department of Children and Families, that provides counseling and advocacy services to victims of sexual offenses. The victim would have the right to have a rape care advocate present and to confer with the advocate prior to and during any medical, evidentiary, or physical examination of the victim.

Additionally, prior to the commencement of any medical, evidentiary, or physical examination, the first responding medical provider assigned to the case would immediately notify the local designated rape crisis center.

“It’s important that the victims of sexual assault know that they have someone on their side who understands the ins and outs of the situation and will be there to advocate for them during their time of need,” said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). “Hopefully this support will help empower victims to stand up to their assailants.”

“Expert care and advocacy in this type of situation is crucial on two fronts,” said Danielsen (D-Middlesex/Somerset). “Not only is it a source of support for the victim during this difficult time, but the expertise of a trained advocate may be crucial to the successful prosecution of an assailant.”

When it comes to law enforcement investigations, the victim would also have the right to have a rape care advocate present and to confer with the advocate prior to and during any interview, statement, or contact with the victim by law enforcement authorities, prosecuting attorneys, or defense attorneys. Prior to any such activity, the law enforcement agency or prosecuting attorney would notify the local designated rape crisis center.

Further, the victim would be notified orally or in writing by the rape care advocate that they have the right to have the advocate present and confer with them prior to and during a medical, evidentiary, or physical examination of the victim, as well as during any such interview, statement, or contact with the victim by law enforcement authorities, prosecuting attorneys, or defense attorneys.

The bill was approved by the Assembly Judiciary Committee.