To establish protections for victims of sexual violence, legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Carol Murphy to create the Sexual Assault Victim’s Bill of Rights cleared the legislature Monday with final passage in the Assembly, 77-0.
“New Jersey has made advances in the recognition and protection of the rights of crime victims and survivors. Unfortunately, victims of sexual violence are often faced with blame and doubt.” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “Survivors of sexual violence should be heard, their trauma should not be neglected. No victim of sexual violence should feel discouraged from proceeding with their complaints or feel shame for their experience. We must ensure that all survivors feel safe, supported and believed. With this legislation, it is my hope that we can empower victims of sexual violence to come forward, and better serve them when we do.”
The bill (A-1711) would establish a Sexual Assault Victim’s Bill of Rights.
The first two of eleven rights included in the Sexual Assault Victim’s Bill of Rights are: (1) to have any allegation of sexual assault treated seriously; to be treated with dignity and compassion; and to be notified of existing medical, counseling, mental health, or other services available for victims of sexual assault, whether or not the crime is reported to law enforcement; and (2)to be free, to the extent consistent with the New Jersey and United States Constitutions, from any suggestion that victims are responsible for the commission of crimes against them or that victims were contributorily negligent or assumed the risk of being assaulted. The full list of rights can be viewed here.
“All victims of sexual violence have the right to be treated with respect, dignity, empathy and a non-judgmental attitude,” said Murphy (D-Burlington). “This bill makes clear that victims have the right to be free of any suggestion that they are responsible for the violence committed against them, and have the right to have the sexual assault treated seriously and in accordance with their ability and willingness to proceed legally or personally to recoup their losses from any such violence. It’s the right approach to finally ensure victims receive the help they need.”
The legislation requires the Attorney General, in consultation with the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault, to publish a notice of these rights, including on the Department of Law and Public Safety’s Internet website. Hospital emergency departments, police stations and other law enforcement agencies, sexual violence service organizations, and other entities informing sexual violence victims of their rights are to post a copy of this notice in a conspicuous location available to the public.
In addition, the Attorney General will be directed to incorporate the rights and services enumerated in the “Sexual Assault Victim’s Bill of Rights” and the “Sexual Assault Survivor Protection Act of 2015,” in the Attorney General Standards for Providing Services to Victims of Sexual Assault to ensure the compassionate and sensitive delivery of services to all sexual violence victims.
The bill will now go to the Governor’s desk.