Bill would expand support for sexual assault survivors

Bipartisan, bicameral legislation introduced in Congress would improve and expand access to help for sexual assault survivors needing medical care, including sexual assault examinations.

The Survivors’ Access to Supportive Care Act would develop national standards of care for survivors of sexual assault, strengthen the sexual assault examiner workforce, expand access to sexual assault examination services including in rural and tribal communities, and improve education on the topic.

The bill was reintroduced on Tuesday, March 23, by Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash.

“Alaska has the unfortunate reality of being the most dangerous state in the country for women, particularly for Alaska Native women,” Murkowski said. “In addition to high rates of sexual assault, many of our rural communities have no law enforcement or access to hospital care, which is a plane ride away. It is unacceptable that victims in either urban or rural Alaska face numerous challenges when accessing sexual assault forensic exam.”

The bill would direct the federal Department of Health and Human Services to establish a pilot training and continuing education program, to be tested and incorporated by health care providers nationwide. It would also create a new resource center for states and hospitals to provide care to survivors, including access to sexual assault forensic exams, available to hospitals receiving federal funds.