State publishes Sexual Assault Victim’s Bill of Rights

Advocates say awareness is the first step toward justice

By: - April 26, 2023 3:50 pm

RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization.

PROVIDENCE — Victims of sexual assault will now be guaranteed the right to access certain information from their rape kits, according to Sexual Assault Victim’s Bill of Rights newly-published on the state Attorney General’s website. 

“My Office prosecutes far too many sexual assault cases – and yet we know sexual assault is chronically underreported for many reasons,” Attorney General Peter Neronha said in a statement. 

“This Bill of Rights is a step in the right direction. With knowledge comes power, and victims deserve to know the rights they have and what services are available to them to help them in the aftermath of such trauma.”

The announcement comes during National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, which runs April 23-29, and Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Making this information public is required by the Sexual Assault Evidence Kits Act passed by the state last year, which requires any entity that receives, holds, or tests sexual assault evidence kits to report the quantity of untested kits to the Rhode Island Department of Health on an annual basis, as well as establishes testing requirements for newly collected kits.

The Sexual Assault Victim’s Bill of Rights informs victims of the rights available to all victims of sexual assault in Rhode Island, even if they choose not to participate in the criminal justice system or decide not to obtain a medical examination. 

It also includes information on rights to obtain a medical examination and sexual assault evidence kit, consulting with victim advocates, and obtaining information regarding the results of their sexual assault evidence kit.

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Should a victim choose to report their sexual assault to a law enforcement agency, the physical evidence gathered with the kit will be tested by a state laboratory.

Kits from unreported assaults will be retained by the Rhode Island Department of Health for a period of at least 10 years, but will not be tested unless and until there is a report made to law enforcement. 

Victims always reserve the right to report their rape to law enforcement at a future time. 

It is never too late to report,” the Sexual Assault Victim’s Bill of Rights reads.

Peg Langhammer, executive director of the Providence-based nonprofit advocacy group Day One, called the Bill of Rights a “great step in positively impacting how Rhode Island handles sexual assault cases.”

“Victims deserve support, resources, and protection while their perpetrators are held accountable,” Langhammer said in a statement. “The needs of a survivor should always come first. This law helps victims not be re-traumatized and endure a difficult process to seek justice.”

​​Lucy Rios, executive director of the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said, “Survivors of sexual assault deserve to know their rights and protections.”

“For some survivors, knowing that they have the right to speak with an advocate at any point, and that they are never alone, can be lifesaving,” she said.

For more information about the Sexual Assault Victim’s Bill of Rights, including the full text of the bill of rights, visit the Attorney General’s website.

If your or someone you know is the victim of sexual assault, one of the following resources can help:

  • Day One: (401) 421-4100. Phones are open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. 
  • The Sojourner House helpline: (401) 765-3232.
  • Elizabeth Buffum Chace Center: (401) 738-1700
  • National Sexual Assault Hotline: (800) 656-4673
  • The National Domestic Violence Hotline: (800) 494-8100. This helpline is available 24/7


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Christopher Shea
Christopher Shea

Christopher Shea covers politics, the criminal justice system and transportation for the Rhode Island Current.