Advocates for a Bill of Rights for Kansas sexual assault victims told legislators on the House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Rep. Fred Patton, that additional supports would empower more people to come forward and report these crimes. (Sept. 22, 2020, photo by Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)
TOPEKA — A bill under consideration in a Kansas House Committee could provide sexual assault survivors with additional rights and support if approved.
House Bill 2536 would provide a survivor with a support person throughout any physical examinations, interviews, investigations or any interaction with the legal system. In addition, victims would have the right to a free shower following a medical examination should one be available at the facility and are guaranteed access to complete copies of law enforcement reports.
Any violation of the bill would give a survivor cause of action to seek relief from the court.
Driven by her own hellish experience after she was raped, Amanda Nguyen collaborated with members of Congress to draft the Sexual Assault Survivors Bill of Rights. She urged legislators Tuesday on the House Judiciary Committee, led by Rep. Fred Patton, R-Topeka, to give hope to those Kansans in a dark place.
“Their lives are the invisible war zones that corrode human potential and hold back the promise of a just world,” Nguyen said. “Their powerlessness is our shame. This is a peace that we all — legislator, citizen, advocate from any corner of the globe — can help deliver.”
Nguyen, alongside several other survivors and advocates, shared their stories in support of the measure during the House panel hearing. If approved by the Kansas Legislature, the measure requires survivors to be informed of these rights before the initial interaction.
The Sexual Assault Survivors Bill of Rights Act passed unanimously through the U.S. House and Senate in 2016. Since then, 26 states have adopted their own version of the bill.
Flannery Houston, the director of programs with Rise — a national coalition of sexual assault survivors — drew from her own experience as a sexual assault survivor, and her decision not to report the crime, to demonstrate the merits of the bill.
“Survivors are left to navigate a confusing and opaque law enforcement and judicial system on their own — while at their most vulnerable,” Houston said. “Had these protections been available to me, I would have been more empowered to report my crime.”
Rep. Megan Lynn, R-Olathe, sponsored the bill to establish these baseline rights for more than 600,000 Kansans who have been a victim of sexual violence at one point in their life.
“As one of those more than 600,000, I know firsthand the confusion that can set in after an assault,” Lynn said. “Notifying a survivor of their rights in such an overwhelming situation will provide guidance to move forward in healing and finding justice.”
However, Ed Klumpp, a representative of several law enforcement organizations across the state, said despite his support for the intent of the bill, certain additional protections could delay investigations. For example, he said, third parties during the interview process often inhibit the victim from describing details critical to the investigation.
He added the right to complete copies of law enforcement reports could taint the investigation.
“Requiring (support) to the degree suggested in this bill is … out of balance with investigative needs and perhaps even some of the victim’s needs. Especially those immediately following the attack,” Klumpp said. “We must remember a thorough and prompt investigation is also an important support component for victims.”
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