New Virginia law changes rights for sexual assault victims
VIRGINIA - A new law going into effect in Virginia on July 1st is intended to get more rape victims to come forward.
When a sexual assault victim goes to police, part of the evidence gathered comes from a recovery kit, commonly known as a rape kit.
"Recovery kits are a tool that is used by medical professionals to collect evidence from sexual assault victims." Explained Hope House Executive Director Michelle Hansley.
Hope House is a shelter for sexual assault and domestic violence victims in Scott County.
The new law states officers must explain to sexual assault victims what their rights are when it comes to rape kits.
"They have a right to see the results that have been tested. And you know, you send a 'perp kit' in, it generates a report from the scientists that look at this, and the assault victims have a right to see this." Said Detective Steven Crawford of the Bristol, Va. Police Department.
The law also requires police keep victims updated on their investigation.
Victim advocates say the communication between police and victims will strengthen relations and hopefully inspire more victims to come forward.
"I think it will build a better relationship with victims and law enforcement because they will be in more contact with each other and they can develop a better sense of trust with one another as these cases are reported." Said Hansley.
"We'll be able now to see the progress of these things and be able to update victims and stay in touch with them a lot longer." Agreed Detective Crawford.
There is no statue of limitations on rape in the Commonwealth.
The new law says evidence from the kits can now be kept an additional 10 years if the victim wants that.
Plus, it requires the kits be sent to a lab within 60 days.
'"We generally send ours away... naturally 60 days and that's not a short amount of time, we have time to do some background work, some investigation, but generally we send ours out right away." Crawford explained.
The new law comes just as state Attorney General Mark Herring announced 3,000 rape kits-- some 25 -years-old-- will finally be tested.